The Horn (1934) by Brian Flynn

“Murder as a fine art, as a pure expression of sadism is almost unknown.”

Thus spoke Anthony Bathurst to his friend, Chief Inspector Andrew MacMorran, but he will soon come to regret such a statement. Julian Skene arrives to ask his assistance in the case of the disappearance of Mark Kenriston of Whitton in NE England. Kenriston walked away after a dinner party on the eve of his marriage and was never seen again. The only oddity around that time was the sound of a hunting horn that had been echoing in the night…

And now Kenriston’s sister, Juliet, is being terrorised in the night. A sinister presence haunts her bedroom and she is in fear for her life. She is also due to be married – is there someone out there determined to stop that marriage as well. And as the fear intensifies, the sinister horn begins to sound once more…

After The Triple Bite, Flynn returns once more to Conan Doyle for his basic inspiration for this tale, heading off the critics who might make a comparison by invoking Dr Rowlett and Stoke Moran himself. The idea of a sinister creature visiting a young woman’s bedroom before her marriage, with a sibling suffering a similar fate previously clearly draws from The Speckled Band, but there is a significant difference here – the visitor is furry, not scaly. Dorothy L Sayers wasn’t desperately impressed with the similarities (and, in her review, does go on to spoil the furry individual’s identity) but, as with the opening to The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye, it’s merely a jumping off point.

As Bathurst goes incognito in the neighbourhood, finding suspicious characters lurking at the nearby pub, the villain orchestrates his plan of terror, with such treats as sending the contents of Mark’s pockets (and the buttons from his suit) to Juliet, leading to an exciting conclusion. As with the best of Flynn’s work, it marries the thriller with a clever whodunit. OK, the murderer’s plan is completely bonkers, but aren’t they always?

I’ll admit, I was a bit worried about this one, as DLS wasn’t keen, but I absolutely loved it. Aside from Conan Doyle, we also get some inspiration from the Maquis De Sade, along with some interesting titbits about him, but there’s also a mystery so enjoyable, I can even overlook using my least favourite mystery trope, in part because it actually makes sense here.

Hopefully, you can judge for yourself before the end of the year. Because I doubt you’ll find your own copy before then…

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