Ludovic Travers, lately having re-enlisted in the army due to the outbreak of hostilities with Germany, has a new role assigned to him. Having dealt with a murder while in charge of a prisoner of war camp (The Case Of The Murdered Major) and a murder while in charge of a research and development enclave (The Case Of The Kidnapped Colonel), he finds himself transferred to Derbyshire to help train the local Home Guard. And there isn’t any murder to deal with at all.
Just kidding. The training staff include one Captain Mortar, a fighting soldier, one with a history of fighting in basically every recent war possible. Mortar is not an easy man to like – as evidenced by some “accidents” on the firing range. And when an explosion destroys Mortar’s room with him inside it, it seems that a killer is on the loose. But with so many enemies, which one killed Mortar?
The third of Bush’s trilogy of mysteries based on his time in the army – and part of my “Do Mention The War” series – and it’s both good news and bad news. The bad news first – it’s not as strong as the other two titles. But the good news is that as those were truly excellent, that still makes this a good read.
The strength here lies in the set-up and the goings-on within the camp and the insights into the Home Guard set-up. The mystery never quite grabbed me – Superintendent Wharton is once again at the forefront of the investigation as opposed to Travers, but the investigation felt a little like running on the spot for a while.
It picks up again with the conclusion, revealing an effective, if somewhat straightforward conclusion, with some nice emotional weight.
One thing that struck me when reading this and “And So To Murder” about all of the wartime titles I’ve looked at to date – while the tales never present the military as perfect or come across as nostalgia piece, the thing that seems to be missing is fear. At no point that I recall does anyone express any concern that the Germans might win the war. It’s understandable as a general tone, but you’d have thought someone might have written a character terrified of the conflict. I’ll keep reading, however, and let you know what I find.
In the meantime, this is an effective conclusion to a strong trilogy of mysteries – just not as strong as the first two. Well Worth A Look.