An ordinary weekend get-together at the home of George Fosdyke in Brensford takes a strange turn or two when a) a sudden storm floods the region, isolating the homes and b) a party of three strangers showing up, desperate to visit Fosdyke’s neighbour, Donald Carswell. Oh, and I suppose I should mention c) that when the flood-waters subside the next morning, Carswell is found dead, alone in his house.
Soon, Scotland Yard is summoned, in the form of Inspector Arnold and by a stunning coincidence, his friend and sleuthing partner Desmond Merrion happens to be staying down the road. Soon they realise that Carswell was more than just the village grumpy old man – he was up to his neck in a criminal conspiracy. But which of his acquaintance was the one who decided to end the partnership?
I was lucky enough to get a copy of this on eBay the other day – with a dustjacket and for less than a tenner! – so I thought for once I wouldn’t let it sit on the shelf but read it as soon as possible. My John Rhode collection is growing nicely – 70% of the titles now sit on my shelf – but collecting Miles Burton, John Street’s other primary alias, is much harder going. So when I got hold of this, after doing a little happy dance, obviously, it went to the top of the TBR pile.
It’s a late title in Street’s canon – there are only four Burton titles that follow this (and 56 that precede it) – but based on my reading so far, the late Burton’s aren’t as weak as the late Rhode titles. But this one… well, it’s okay, I guess.
Street on occasion liked to tell stories about criminal conspiracies – Pinehurst, Proceed With Caution, Blackthorn House – and for me, they are his weakest tales, so when this rapidly changed from a tale of a village under threat from a flood into such a tale, I was a bit disappointed. There’s some lovely stuff with the house party coping with being forced upstairs so abandoning that aspect for a good chunk of the narrative was disappointing. Having said that it bears up a lot better than the Priestley titles as Arnold and Merrion are a more entertaining double act than Jimmy Waghorn and whoever he’s treading water with before he gives up and goes to find Priestley to ask who the murderer is.
The ending though is a problem. A certain clue, once mentioned, will either give away the murderer, if the reader has a very good memory and was paying attention or, in the other case, have the reader scratching their head wondering if they’ve been cheated. I can see what Street was going for with this one, but I’m not convinced that it works.
Still, entertaining enough, if nowhere near Street at the top of his game.
Availability: Good luck, although there is a dodgy ebook floating around out there in the ether.
Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHEN – During A Weather Event