The Elusive Bowman (1951) by Francis Vivian

Michael Maddison is the landlord of the Fox Inn, the public house in the village of Teverby-On-The-Hills. He runs the pub with the aid of his sister, Rhoda, and his neice, Gillian. And both Rhoda and Gillian have motive to murder him.

Maddison has forbidden the women to marry, something both of the women intend to do. Unfortunately, the two women intend to marry the same person, Captain Harry Saunders. Saunders runs an archery range, where both women are expert archers. So when Maddison is found in the basement of the inn, shot by an arrow, there is only a small circle of suspects.

As the three close ranks to protect whichever of them committed the murder, Inspector Knollis has his work cut out for him. But as fractures start to appear in the relationships, and one or two more suspects enter the picture, will this be the case that finally thwarts the good Inspector?

Francis Vivian aka Arthur Ernest Ashley wrote eighteen detective novels between 1937 and 1959, ten of which feature Inspector Knollis. Those ten, as I mentioned when I reviewed The Singing Masons and The Ladies Of Locksley, have recently been re-released by the good folks at Dean Street Press. Vivian is an author who I had never heard of before these re-releases and, quite frankly, I have no idea why, as he’s damn good.

It’s hard to tell a convincing tale, especially in a novel, with only three suspects. Okay, four. Maybe five at a pinch. But Vivian does an extraordinary good job here with slow reveals of motivations and alibis appearing and disappearing from page to page. The central characters have strong characterisations and the eventual revelation is a satisfying one.

Admittedly, some of the plot progression relies a little too heavily on random characters suddenly remembering seeing someone somewhere at some particular time on the night of the murder to alibi or incriminate one of the suspect, which takes a little of the shine off the armchair detective’s attempt to solve the crime, but if you’re willing to pay attention, then everything you need is there, I think.

Overall, this is an excellent tale, definitely on a par with The Singing Masons, and fans of the Golden Age should really enjoy this one. Highly Recommended.

Just The Facts, Ma’am: Means Of Murder In The Title

Availability: Recently re-released by Dean Street Press in ebook and paperback format

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