The Fortescue Candle (1936) by Brian Flynn

Albert Griggs, MP, the Secretary of State for Home Affairs sat in his study, considering the case put before him. Two brothers broke into a house and, disturbed in the act of robbing the household, killed a servant-girl. Griggs considered the facts carefully and came to his decision – he would not overturn the death penalty.

Was it the execution of Walter and Harper Fowles that led to Griggs being found shot in a hotel room? Or was is the fact that he had been accused by her father of “molesting” Constance Wells? Griggs had many enemies – and one of them hated him enough to murder him. But when Anthony Bathurst investigates, he finds something even more perplexing – how is the murder linked to the poisoning of Daphne Arbuthnot, an actress, on stage in the middle of a performance? And how is the Ku Klux Klan involved?

The eighteenth Anthony Bathurst book by Brian Flynn and first of all, I have to address one issue – what the heck is the Fortescue Candle? Phyllida Fortescue is one of the actresses involved in the play, but I’ll be honest, I missed any reference to her having a candle. And the phrase “Fortescue Candle” doesn’t seem to mean anything… I’ll have to take another look when I get the chance, but this is one of those incredibly rate entries in the series, so I had to resort to a trip to a very special library to take a look at this one.

Anyway, what’s this one like? So far, the second decade of Flynn’s books have been excellent – I’ve only two left to read and not a duffer among them, and a nice range of styles. This is a tale where Bathurst is baffled for the most part before seeing the light at the end, rather than walking around saying he knows what’s going on for the most part. With two solid suspects for the murder of Griggs, plus the cast of the play who seem to be linked to Griggs in some way, there’s a nice cast of characters for the reader to play “Guess Who?” with – and, I’ll be honest, you’ll probably guess wrong – I certainly did.

One bit of trivial – after having a pop at Father Brown in The Billiard Room Mystery, here Bathurst praises that “marvellously clever creation of the mighty brain of Gilbert Keith Chesterton”. Was Flynn angling after an invite to the Detection Club? If so, it never came…

There is something about the actual motive for one of the murders that… well, I thought it was rather wonderful and is certainly unique, in my reading at least. There is a possibility – just a possibility, mind you – that you might not share my opinion on this, but needless to say, I won’t go into spoilers. You’ll have to read it yourself to make up your own mind – hopefully, that will be a real possibility sooner rather than later. Cross your fingers… In the meantime, there are ten other books to try…


  1. This sounds like a very intriguing book with its various plot elements. It’s interesting see a murdered servant taking a slightly more central role in the plot, as usually their relegated to being secondary deaths.


    • The murderer servant girl is, alas, merely the used as the motive for the execution of the brothers, and hence motive for a couple of characters to kill the Home Secretary – I did wonder of the truth behind that event was going to be part of the story, but there’s too much else going on. Sorry.


  2. You bet I’ll keep my fingers crossed! You’ve made me look forward to the second release of reprints as much as the first one and particularly Tread Softly, which has been praised by others. So keep up the good work!


    • Well, given Dean Street Press said it in a tweet reply to this post, you can uncross those fingers as Books 11 to 20 should be with you by the end of the year. I’ve read 8 of them so far, and they are all Flynn on top of his game. Only The Case Of The Purple Calf and The League Of Matthias to read, but looking very promising (as is what I’ve read of the next ten)


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