The Swinging Death (1949) by Brian Flynn

Dr Julian Field had a straightforward day ahead of him – a short train journey to visit his patient, the wife of Philip Stanhope of Stoke Pelly, and then a journey home. So what caused him to leave the station at an earlier station, Fullaford? Whatever it was apparently led him to St Mark’s Church. And whatever it was led to him being found hanging naked from the light fixture in the church porch…

Why were half of his clothes found in the font of the church, and the other half in the font of a different church? Why was his wife summoned in the dead of night to nearby Friar’s Woodburn on a fool’s errand? And why has a sample of Mrs Stanhope’s sputum disappeared? As Anthony Bathurst and Andrew MacMorran investigate, they discover many secrets hiding behind the façade of village life – but which of them was strong enough to lead to murder?

In 1948, Brian Flynn took a break from Anthony Bathurst, one reason being to concentrate on the Sebastian Stole novels written under the Charles Wogan pseudonym, but he was back with old ALB in 1949. Maybe the Stole books didn’t catch on – there were only three in total – but The Swinging Death, the 35th Bathurst mystery, is a decent outing for Bathurst, certainly stronger than the first two Wogan titles.

Some of the Bathurst titles veer towards thrillers, but this is one of those that is very much a classic mystery. There are a good number of suspects – the Stanhopes, Field’s wife and some others – and some puzzling questions, most of which have good answers. There is one particular oddity that I missed the rationale to but do bear in mind that I am reading these in a non-lending library that I only have occasional access to, so it’s not that easy to check if I missed something. Sorry.

However… for the seasoned armchair sleuth, I think Flynn does telegraph something far too early in the book. Scanning the notes that I made, I wrote “Surely…” and yes, I was correct. There’s enough going on to make me almost doubt myself, but I was pretty sure for the most part about a good portion of the plot, but Flynn still does a good job with the details and the motive.

As ever, Bathurst is on good form, and there’s some good stuff with MacMorran as Bathurst tries to convince his friend about the joys of Rugby, as opposed to Football. MacMorran is the one who gives a much more impassioned argument, which might be a reflection of the author’s preferences – Brian much preferred Football – and I’m very pleased to discover that MacMorran, like me, is a Spurs fan. It’s also worth noting that MacMorran, unlike many a fictional policeman or sidekick is far from an idiot. While he may not have Bathurst’s intuition, he is a capable detective in his own right.

Following the oddness of Conspiracy At Angel, it’s worth noting that the next three titles (including this one) are strong classic-style mysteries. At thirty-five books in, there’s still plenty to enjoy in Brian’s work.

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