On the island of Heartsease-on-Sea, an island with only one access road, Sir George Bull and his host, the American Peter Shayler, are hunting for an acquaintance of theirs. What they find instead is an abandoned ice cream van with a body inside. As you do in crime fiction.
While Shayler gets himself involved with the local police investigation, Sir George decides to pursue his own enquiries, assisted by Lady Bull and the information gleaned from Shayler’s police contacts. With an isolated group of suspects, which investigation will lead to the murderer?
The point of this Countdown to Review 1000 was to find Golden Age(ish) authors who I had yet to try. Most of them were recommended to me, but two in particular were due to me finding a cheap copy of one of their books and deciding to give them a go. I won’t spoil the second author, but this was the first of them.
Milward Kennedy has a reputation of producing workmanlike detective fiction. I think the only time I’ve been exposed to him was his chapter in The Floating Admiral which didn’t inspire confidence – I think there may have been a short story or two in a British Library collection but if so, it didn’t stick in my memory. So that didn’t bode well, but as a member of the Detection Club, I thought it was important not to overlook his novels.
I’ve mentioned before Jacques Barzun, who after reading one Brian Flynn title, Conspiracy At Angel, dismissed the author’s entire canon. Unfortunately, he managed to pick what appears to be Flynn’s least impressive title and hence overlooked a number of would-be classics. Now this was a terrible thing to do, dismissing an entire author based on a single novel. I would be a terrible person to do the same thing…
… but this is much worse than Conspiracy At Angel. It is utter rubbish.
To clarify, most of the narrative deals with the three leads – Lady Bull takes a reasonable deal of the sleuthing duties – talking about their theories. The suspects are fairly faceless, most getting little page time and none having distinctive personalities. At the end of the day, there is a complication in the plot that should have been raised earlier to keep the plot moving, but even then, it’s hardly original. As for the identity of the killer… well, it’s basically a game of pin the tail on the donkey.
It took a lot of effort to get to the end of this one – if I hadn’t already promised to read it via my little puzzle (or could have thought of an alternative to CICSMK) I probably wouldn’t have finished it… It took me nearly a thousand reads to get to Milward Kennedy. I’m afraid it might well be another thousand to come back to him…