The Ring Of Innocent (1952) by Brian Flynn

Martin Scudamore was in the cinema when he overheard the two men’s conversation. A conversation about the importance of the four rings – green, blue, red and yellow. And that if a certain Mr Lovelace was to stand in the way of the elder man – “I’ll slit his throat – without the slightest compunction or hesitation”.

As Scudamore has a friend by the name of Lovelace, he relates the story to a young woman he likes who happens to work at Scotland Yard, one Helen Repton. And, because Helen Repton is no idiot, she hightails it to a man whom she likes – Anthony Bathurst.

Racing to the residence of Lovelace, Bathurst finds himself too late, but while he is contemplating the victim’s last words – “innocent” and “teaspoon” – the killer’s plan is far from over…

The fortieth Anthony Lotherington Bathurst mystery (out of fifty-three, in case you weren’t paying attention) and one that’s been sitting on my shelf for a rainy day. Well, yesterday (as I write this) was a very rainy day, so much so that I put off my trip to the library to read more unobtainable Flynn, so I decided to finally take a look at this one.

Late books from a favourite author are always a bit of a lottery. I still haven’t read Postern Of Fate, for example, as I know it’s supposed to be rubbish, despite loving Dame Agatha’s work. With regards Flynn, as you get into the later books, there are a few that tend to be more about criminal conspiracies rather than out and out mysteries – The Feet Of Death, Where There Was Smoke, for example, and the “classic” Conspiracy At Angel. But these are more than outnumbered by the traditional whodunits, of which this indeed is one.

But first, this did give me an insight into Helen Repton. I’ve mentioned the character before, a female member of Scotland Yard who assists, to an extent, Bathurst and Inspector MacMorran. The earliest that I’ve encountered her is in Black Agent, but as she is already known to Bathurst in that book, I’m guessing she debuts in Men For Pieces, the previous book – I’ll let you know, as that’s next on my list of library reading. What intrigues me is her position as possible-love-interest for Bathurst.

Their relationship is fairly flirty with no actual romance to date, but this one is slightly different. You may recall that Bathurst has a general disinterest in the fairer sex, due to a bad relationship in his youth – this is introduced in The Orange Axe, expanded on in The Edge Of Terror and he had seemed to be over it in Fear and Trembling – but generally, he leaves love-struck women to dream of what might have been. In the opening section, when Scudamore is telling his tale to Helen, it becomes clear that she is in love with Bathurst and believes it isn’t reciprocated, but the implication by the end of the book is that it’s not entirely one-way, citing one rather strange obstacle. I’d love to discuss this further but a) most of this is on the last page of the book and b) those of you wise/foolish enough to follow my advice, have read all ten of the reprinted Bathurst titles and are itching for more… well, we need to get to Book Thirty-Four for the first sighting of Helen, so, even if the wind keeps blowing in the right direction, we’re several years away from that…

What do you mean, you haven’t tried these yet?

Enough about lurve, what about the mystery? It follows the standard format of the books, focusing on Anthony and his investigation. As can be the case, it does mean that sometimes the suspects don’t get enough page-time to truly develop themselves as viable characters in their own right, but despite this, Flynn pulls off a good surprise in the identity of the murderer, even if their goal is fairly straightforward, with the motive in general being a bit obvious to my eyes at least. There’s a double meaning to some clues, and it seemed to me a little as if Bathurst takes the less likely interpretation rather than the more likely one – indeed, one of the correct interpretations was a bit obvious to me, but this time, I’m certain I’m in the minority.

While this doesn’t match the early titles, this is a good, solidly entertaining murder mystery – most importantly, a very readable murder mystery – and it’s definitely worth your time. In about three years, with a lot of luck…

Addendum: Just occurred to me, you might recognise the cover image as Dean Street Press nicked it for The Triple Bite, given that, at the time, we had no clue as to the content of that book and a woman sneaking around in the dark seemed a reasonable punt. It worked out nicely, as it fits that book really well. Having said that, it has absolutely no relevance to this one…

One comment

  1. This was the first title by Flynn that I read, more years ago than I care to remember. On re-reading it I found that it was better than I thought the first time, but I agree that it’s not his best work by any means. The opening slightly reminded me of Phiip MacDonald’s “Warrant for X”, but it didn’t develop in the same way at all.

    Liked by 1 person

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