The Case Of The Bonfire Body by Christopher Bush

When travelling home on a foggy Guy Fawkes eve, Ludovic Travers, author of a surprisingly well-known of an extremely dull-sounding treatise, comes across a running vicar. Said vicar is looking for help and when rearranging the wood for an upcoming bonfire, he came across a body. A body that has had its head and hands hacked off…

With no indication of the identity of the body, it seems that Travers has an unsolvable mystery on his hands. But when a London doctor is stabbed at roughly the same time, links start to appear between the two cases. But did the body in the bonfire kill the doctor? Did the doctor kill the headless body? Or is there a third person out there, orchestrating matters? Or even a fourth person…

I’m working my way through the Bush titles, currently being re-issued by Dean St Press, and I’m rapidly becoming a fan of the author. By no means perfect – I’ll come to that in a bit – his writing is a cut above a lot of Golden Age writers. He has a reputation as being a writer who tends to concentrate on alibi-busting, which can sound a bit dull and technical, but that really isn’t the case.

The first half of this book is very strong indeed. The mystery is nicely developed and teased out, not necessarily going in the obvious directions. The writing is strong – there’s a nice section when Travers confronts his feelings towards a homeless match-seller who passes every day. And while that story does soon involve itself in the main narrative, it’s a nice little touch that humanises Travers who I found rather dry in the early titles.

The third quarter is where the action flags somewhat, as the pace seemed to stall somewhat, but the ending is strong and not what I was expecting. Bush has at least one very convincing red herring suspect which certainly had me distracted. And while one aspect of the plot seemed to come a bit out of nowhere, the finale is very well done.

Not as strong as The Case Of The Dead Shepherd or The Case Of The Chinese Gong, but a strong title nonetheless. Well Worth A Look.

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