The Padded Door (1932) by Brian Flynn

Leonard Pearson was not a pleasant individual – a money lender and likely blackmailer – so it wasn’t to anyone’s great surprise when he came to a sticky end. Attacked from behind, his head smashed in with a blunt instrument, the only clue to his murderer came from the identity of his final visitor. Captain Hilary Frant came to see Pearson that night on some very personal business, and was heard threatening Pearson. And given that his heavy walking-stick is mysteriously missing…

Frant’s family, once he is arrested, have but one recourse – send for Anthony Bathurst. But with Bathurst delayed in starting the investigation, the trail is already growing very cold. With only Frant’s honour as a hint to his innocence – he would have been unlikely to attack Pearson from behind – and the hanging judge, Mr Justice Heriot, presiding over the trial, all seems bleak. But an unexpected second death soon turns everything on its head…

Before I continue talking about this, the eleventh Anthony Bathurst mystery, I should give a warning. There is, at time of writing, exactly one copy for sale on the internet, for approximately £1200. It’s not worth that. Mainly because it’s a book and no book is worth that. However, if you are patient and can wait about ten or eleven months… well, it’s looking like there will be more titles coming from Dean St Press of which this will be one.

So let’s start with number eleven. And it’s a good one. It’s a very good one.

The structure is interesting. Despite opening in the first person, it seems to be Flynn himself doing something of a Watson impression, talking about being able to finally tell the story as someone important involved in the case has passed away. One can only hope, for the sake of our hero, it’s Anthony Lotherington Bathurst himself who dies, as he does commit a crime in this book which just might have a prison sentence attached to it. If not, letting his good chum Brian write up this adventure seems like something of an oversight. But after the first few paragraphs, the narrator fades away and it becomes a traditional third-person narrative until the final few paragraphs…

Putting that aside, the description of the crime and the participants (and possible participants) takes a clever idea, with each of the opening chapters focussing on one individual, jumping back a step in time with each new chapter to tell different peoples sides of the same events. It gives the reader a chance to get a good handle on some of the suspects in the crime.

As with the twentieth Bathurst mystery, Tread Softly, the trial is not the end of the story, but the plot carries a genuine surprise with the second death. It came out of nowhere, completely blindsiding me and yet, when the whole picture is revealed, it makes perfect sense in the grand scheme of things.

It’s full of the charm and wit of the series, and finally gives a reasonable role to Inspector Andrew MacMorran who has had a couple of fleeting appearances to date, but will become the regular support policeman. To an extent, he and Bathurst are on opposite sides initially, as it is he who arrests Frant, but with the second death, they are both pursuing the same adversary. However, he does disappear for a good chunk of the tale, apparently waiting for Bathurst to let him know when he’s got everything sorted. An odd way to run Scotland Yard, but fair enough, at least you’ll know you’ve got the right man. Probably.

Everything here is deducible, provided you can swallow… something. It’s not the first time Flynn has overdone this aspect and won’t be the last, but if you’re OK with that bit, then everything can be put into place. I didn’t, to be fair, and the stupidity of one guilty party that allows themselves to be trapped, you have to wonder how they got away with it for so long. But this is, as always with Flynn, a highly entertaining mystery, written with the reader’s enjoyment in mind. A book that can stand side by side with the opening ten titles – which, in case you weren’t aware, are available now from Dean Street Press – it’s something to look forward to.

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