’Tis all a chequerboard of nights and days, where Destiny with men for pieces plays;
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays, and one by one back in the closet lays.
Andrew Murray, the manager of Delaney’s Bank, wants to see Peter Oliver, a young clerk, concerning an irregularity in a financial security. However, it seems that Oliver hasn’t reported for work that day.
Stella Forrest, Oliver’s girlfriend is similarly concerned, and when, a few days later, she spots Anthony Bathurst at the restaurant where she works, she entreats him to help her. Breaking into Oliver’s home, he finds Oliver’s body – he has apparently killed himself, cutting his own throat with a cut-throat razor. Bathurst is not convinced – and when Oliver’s sister spots a misplaced bath-plug, he is hot on the trail of a cunning murderer…
The thirty-sixth Anthony Bathurst mystery, I chose this one for my next library visit as I was hoping to track down the earliest appearance of Bathurst’s occasional sidekick Helen Repton, who plays a major role in the next book, Black Agent. However, this isn’t her debut – she doesn’t appear in this one at all. Instead Bathurst and MacMorran are in harness to track down Oliver’s murderer – there’s a nice bit of sparring early on as MacMorran is insistent on it being suicide- quite reasonably, to be honest – with Bathurst convinced of the alternative.
While there’s nothing to make this stand out in the Flynn canon, this is still a great mystery tale. Red herrings abound, with missing money from the bank being mysteriously returned, a disappearing central character and a good collection of suspects.
Flynn does another thing very well – a surprising murderer – and he caught me out here again, with a killer that makes perfect sense and yet eluded me completely. The motive is well done, with a central unasked question being the primary clue that works very well.
There’s some nice period touches here with a feeling of post-war austerity in particular a restaurant menu having “blue-pencilled” items due to rationing. And as a bonus, Flynn, who constantly plugs Bathurst’s past cases, manages to plug his alter-ego, as a literary agent mentions the writer Charles Wogan.
It’s definitely worth your while, but another sign that Flynn’s talent for an entertaining murder mystery extends well into his career.