See my previous post as to what I’m doing here. In the meantime, POSSIBLE MILD SPOILERS FOR A BOOK YOU’LL PROBABLY NEVER READ ahead!
Chapter I – The Golden Lion
The title of the chapter refers to the public house where David Somerset has arranged to meet the mysterious Adam Antine. It feels more like a prologue than an opening chapter, and as it, and the meeting progresses, it is clear that there is information that both characters – and the four men wearing the same clothes (“dinner jacket, white vest, black bow, black studs and links and a white gardenia”) as Mr Antine who soon arrive as well – are privy to that the reader isn’t. Antine and co want to buy something from Somerset, but they differ wildly on prices – £100,000 to £1,000,000 – and Somerset’s counter-offer starts mutterings of murder. As the chapter concludes, it seems that a non-murderous arrangement is about to be made…
Intriguing set-up, although the group of five apparent criminals does worry me a little as the less-than-impressive Conspiracy At Angel started with a similar group. As to what is to be sold – what would be worth a million quid in 1936? I have no idea. I wonder how long it will be before we find out… A good start, let’s see what happens next…
Chapter II – The News Comes To Scotland Yard
Sir Austin Mitchell (technically Brigadier-General Sir Austin Mostyn Kemble, KCVO, DSO) the Commissioner of Police has invited Anthony Bathurst to listen to the story of Gerald Somerset. Apparently on the day after the above meeting, not only did David Somerset, Gerald’s father, disappeared without trace. And not only that, so did Gerald’s brother, Geoffrey. They were all partners in a chemical business with no enemies, no reason to disappear. Bathurst takes the case, citing it as one of the more interesting ones that he’s come across but admits once Geoffrey leaves (with a warning to be careful in case he vanishes too) that he hasn’t got a clue where to start.
To be honest, I can’t see why Bathurst (who’s acting as if he’s a consulting detective) is so excited about the case – he’s had much more bizarre cases, but it’s a nice set-up. Also, there’s an odd section before Gerald shows up where Bathurst spouts some trivia about various traditions concerning what the upcoming summer’s weather will be like and then acts smug when Kemble doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Basically, he’s a smart arse and doesn’t mind showing it. Not the most endearing character trait…
I wonder… is the simultaneous disappearance the central problem or is something going to happen to Gerald? Let’s see…
Chapter III Miss Masters Remembers
Miss Masters was David Somerset’s secretary, so it is she who helps out when Bathurst visits the offices of the Somersets – and doesn’t stand for his nonsense, which is nice. No sign of any additional problem just yet, but what we get is an exercise in deduction as to where David was heading when he left – the ABC was left open at a page containing seventeen destinations and there’s a well thought out sequence of narrowing down the possibilities. Interesting that at no point is the ABC referred to as a railway (and hotel apparently) guide – I guess readers just knew this. The chapter ends with Bathurst heading off to investigate the last sighting of Geoffrey. Oh, and it seems clear now that David disappeared directly after the events of Chapter One.
Chapter IV Concerning Geoffrey Somerset
Now we meet Irene Pearce, fiancee of Geoffrey, an actress of some celebrity who seems to suffer the attention that the modern day “stars” do. Points off to Flynn for mentioning her “small firm breasts” but she’s presented in a very sympathetic light. Apparently when Geoffrey left her on the day he vanished, he had a gun in his pocket – an actual one, nothing to do with those “small firm breasts”. Bathurst returns to London contemplating the two women he’s met with a Kipling poem, a The Ladies, rattling round his head. Again, like the ABC, that isn’t explained, he just contemplates a line. I recognised it thanks to Google – was the poem well known in 1936?
Oh, and Irene bothers to tell Bathurst that Geofrrey and Gerald are (or were?) twins – you’d think this would have come up before…
Chapter V On The Track
Convinced that he’s worked out where David Somerset went to – we don’t see the end of his deductions, which is a shame as the earlier ones were rather clever – Bathurst finds himself in The Golden Lion, where the barman recalls Somerset and the five strange gentlemen.
“They were all short, all of ‘em bar one, darkish, and their hair was done in a foreign sort of way. Do you know what I mean? Jewy-lookin’, I should call ‘em. Hitler would have fair licked his chops directly he caught sight of ‘em.”
Oh dear. And for the second conversation in a row, we get the “no, nothing suspicious, hang on, there was one thing” structure. Bathurst leaves with an inkling as to what the meeting was about and heads back to London.
Well, so far, it’s perfectly fine. The problem I can see is how is it to become a whodunit, as we have five suspicious foreigners and no evidence of what’s happened. Still, this is only 20% of the way through, so there’s plenty of time for a body or two to show up. My gut feeling though… I wish I hadn’t looked up where the title came from, as I’m guessing that’s a hint as to what will, or might, happen. Let’s see.