The Man Who Killed Fortescue (1929) by John Stephen Strange aka Dorothy Stockbridge Tillet

Everyone reads a book for a different reason. A favourite author? Possibly. An eye-catching cover? Seems reasonable, although given the current trends, possibly a similar cover to a book you’ve enjoyed before. Maybe it’s got good word of mouth. Maybe it’s a long lost title that you’ve stumbled across in a charity shop.

Or maybe it’s because it features a murder on a bus. That’s the case here, anyway.

There are three cases in the opening Brian Flynn titles where plot points are shared with other titles. They are all coincidences – even the one where the other book was released a year or so earlier, as Flynn’s book was being dragged from publisher to publisher at that point. One, the one which shares an idea with Gladys Mitchell, I’m convinced is inspired by a news story of the time, but I’ve no idea which one. And this one has a murder on the top deck of a bus, just like Murder En Route. I’m an idiot, but one determined to research properly the introductions for the upcoming Flynn re-releases, so one transatlantic book delivery later…

Murder En Route is a cracking book. A man is found strangled alone on the top deck of a bus, when nobody went up or down the stairs. And that’s just part of the mystery.

This is not a cracking book.

Well, the bus is not relevant to the story. Boo! The villain is seen running down the stairs before the conductor can get a look at his face. The victim, you see, had been researching the murder of one Mr Fortescue a year of so previous, and may well have gotten too close to the actual murderer’s identity. Enter Detective Van Dusen Ormsberry, who failed to catch the murderer the first time round. Can he catch them this time? And if he does catch them, can he remember who the villain was? Because I couldn’t…

Not a fan of this one, I’m afraid. Dorothy Stockbridge Tillet, under the pseudonym John Stephen Strange, wrote twenty or so mystery novels, but I’m in no rush to try another. The suspects are an uninspiring bunch, all of them with an underhand agenda to either cover up the murder, implicate someone else in the murder, blackmail someone for something or other, or even hire a killer to do their dirty work for them. And that’s not even mentioning the behaviour of one of them when their plans go wrong, dismissed with a distinct lack of concern by the authorities.

And, as I said, when the villain was unmasked, I had to flick back through the text to try and remember who they were – and indeed if they even had appeared earlier in the book (they had).

Ah, the things I do for dear old Brian. At least I’ve now read the two primary Golden Age murder-on-a-moving-bus mysteries. That’s something, I suppose…

Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHAT – Person’s name in the title

5 comments

  1. The penname was ringing a bell but it took until I read the second name – Strange, that I had remembered that I had tried two later works by her – and not liked them all that much either. Hope your copy didn’t set you back too much!

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  2. I attempted to read The Murder On The Bus by Cecil Freeman Gregg (1930). Here also a murder takes place on the open upper deck of a double-decker bus.. But I found it dull, as dull as a novel by Freeman Wills Crofts. Perhaps JJ may like it ! 🙂

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