The Case Of The Seven Bells (1949) by Christopher Bush

Maudie Brown, the barmaid at The Seven Bells public house, comes to see Bill Ellice at his detective agency. Bill’s partner, Ludovic Travers is intrigued by Maudie’s tale of three threatening spivs, who apparently talk about a robbery at somewhere called the grange, before threatening Maudie’s silence. There’s something wrong about Maudie’s story but he can’t quite put his finger on it.

He soon bumps into his friend Superintendent Wharton who is investigating a break-in gone wrong. Could this be the robbery that Maudie overheard the spivs talking about – for the victim is the renowned actress Audrey Grange. If only Maudie hadn’t disappeared into thin air…

OK, first off, this review might be very short. Or very long and rambling. I’m suffering with a heavy cold and am full of medication. There’s a distinct chance I might start talking utter nonsense and then not realise before I hit the PUBLISH button. Fingers crossed I can control myself.

As you well know, the lovely folks at Dean St Press have been reprinting Christopher Bush’s novels – so far up to book thirty. Well, this is book thirty-five. I bought it due to the way I collect detective fiction. Basically, if the book is by John Street aka John Rhode aka Miles Burton, or, of course, Brian Flynn, then anything goes. As I want to get everything by them, I can’t afford to be fussy. But for other authors for whom I’m not being a completist, then I tend to pick up a single first edition dustjacket if I see a cheap one. Actually, I’ve got two Bush titles, as I couldn’t resist it when I saw a cheap copy of the wonderfully titled The Case Of The Jumbo Sandwich, as I’m only human.

[ADDENDUM – blast, just realised this isn’t a first edition. Still, it’s very nice to look at.]

This will be out soon from Dean Street Press, along with the other titles from 31 to 40, The Case Of The Second Chance to The Case Of The Happy Medium, but as we pass the halfway mark (there are 63 Travers titles), is Bush still firing on all cylinders?

Clearly I’ve missed something as Travers is not only a sort-of partner in a detective agency but he’s also got a warrant card from Scotland Yard as well – similar to whatever it is that Anthony Bathurst seems to possess as well. What is this mysterious thing that friends of policemen seem to be able to have? Simply a useful device to propel the plot forward or an actual thing?

There is something of a private investigator novel here, as Travers pretends to seduce one suspect – luckily his understanding wife is out of town – but it’s still a proper mystery with a real Golden Age feel to the solution. While I think a lot of readers will guess one aspect of the solution, something Bush wisely doesn’t keep hidden until the end, there’s a very satisfying finale to this tale.

While not quite on a par with his very best work, this is still strong stuff from one of the most (until now) neglected Golden Age authors.

Availability: There are some second hand copies out there but why not wait until Dean Street Press reissue it later this year. Why not pass the time by reading one of the other thirty titles that have been re-released?

Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHAT – A Number In The Title

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