The Sussex Cuckoo (1935) by Brian Flynn

ITCHUL: The wedges are fixed for the Sussex Cuckoo. Hurry if you would be in time. Even then I fear that you may be too late. Terms as arranged. NEHEMIAH.

Thus read an announcement in the Times Agony Column that caught the eye of Anthony Lotherington Bathurst on the morning that he is sent to the home of James Frith in Little Osney by Inspector MacMorran. Frith is a collector of antiquities and has been receiving threatening letters pertaining to the sale of a collection of Jacobite antiquities. He takes Bathurst’s advice on how to proceed…

… and the next day is found dead, wearing his pyjamas, lying on his front lawn. He spent the previous evening meeting six prospective buyers for his collection which has disappeared. But when they all swear he sold it to one of the others, and the collection is missing – how did he end up without a mark on his body, dead from tetanus poisoning?

Welcome to #FlynnOnFriday, a new regular feature for the blog. Apparently somebody is speaking at the Bodies From The Library about Mr Flynn – the speaker will be formally announced soon – and in preparation, I’m going to attempt to read all of the remaining Flynn titles. I recently made the discovery that there’s a library near me where I can access the books, so I’m going to drip feed the reviews to you, dear readers – one a week, every Friday. Until I forget…

This is the seventeenth Bathurst mystery, and it’s a more sedate affair than some of the other titles from this period of his writing – The Edge Of Terror and The Horn are thrillers as much as mysteries, with a mysterious dark threat looming, whereas this is a more straightforward mystery. Well, I say straightforward…

Bathurst is mostly on his own here, as all evidence points to Frith dying of natural causes, due to no obvious way the tetanus was administered. Assisted by his hosts, Bill and Virginia Congreve, things begin to look more serious for ALB when a definite murder occurs, although even then the local constabulary are a bit useless.

What is interesting here is how many characters actions lend themselves to the big picture here. Rather than a single villain, here we have a number of people with their own agendas, all of which help to naturally obfuscate the big picture of who the actual murderer was. The finale is impressively done, with one particular revelation being a very effective surprise despite being clearly clued.

A good, solid read from Flynn. Not up there with the dramatics of the aforementioned titles, and nothing to really match the sucker punch halfway through The Padded Door, but an absorbing title which builds the tension up nicely to create a really satisfying read.

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