Sergeant Beef was having a quiet pint and a game of darts when Young Rogers bursts in, announcing that he’s come to give himself up as he has committed a murder. He then produces a bottle and swigs from it… and collapses to the floor dead.
With blood on his hands, it seems clear Young Rogers was telling the truth – but there’s a slight problem. Several people who crossed paths with the reprobate have disappeared without a trace but disappeared doesn’t mean dead. But without a corpse, no idea who was actually murdered, and Scotland Yard traipsing all over the case, it’ll take the deductive know-how of Sergeant Beef to get to the truth.
I enjoyed Case For Three Detectives a lot – maybe not quite as much as some, but it’s still a great read, and I’ve finally come back to Leo Bruce’s Beef series. Bruce writes with a light touch with an eye on doing something a little different with the structure of the detective novel while still staying true to the traditions.
Beef is a great lead character, a grass roots policeman who, while impressed by Inspector Stute of the Yard, has his own little methods and deductions leading, unsurprisingly, to the truth. Bruce writes brightly, with our narrator not necessarily convinced of Beef’s abilities. This is only Beef’s second case after Case For Three Detectives, and given that Inspector Stute seems for a while to be a much better prospect, there’s a question as to whether Beef was lucky last time out. Needless to say, this is indeed Beef’s show but Bruce does a good job of not making Stute an idiot, just an competent investigator who doesn’t quite look at things in the way necessary to solve the case, a case with both a simple and a complex solution.
It’s all rather delightful, really. I think the seasoned armchair sleuth will guess part of what is going on, but the proper solution, with all the bits and bobs? Maybe not.
This is definitely worth your time, it’s one of the more entertaining Golden Age mysteries that I’ve read for a while, clever, funny and never dull. There’s a pricey ebook version out there, but you can pick up second hand copies quite cheaply. UPDATE: Or not, apparently. I got a cheap copy but must have been lucky… Sorry for getting your hopes up.
Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHAT – Comic/Humorous Novel