Such Bright Disguises (1941) by Brian Flynn

Hubert Grant is a fairly unpleasant man, the sort of self-important man who thinks he is the life and soul of any party, thinks every word from his mouth is hilarious and thinks he should be the centre of attention. He also thinks he is happily married.

Dorothy Grant is not happily married but has found some contentment in her lover, Laurence Weston, but as their relationship grows more serious, it seems the only way to be truly happy is if Hubert was out of the way. Permanently.

But the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley and by the end of the scheming, there will be more than one body. And this time, Anthony Bathurst will be far, far too late.

“Men put such bright disguises on their lust, and then it all goes crumble into dust.”

John Masefield

Well, that was certainly different. This is the twenty seventh Anthony Bathurst mystery and I wonder, was it originally planned not to include Bathurst at all?  The first 80% of the narrative doesn’t involve him at all, as we are basically presented with an inverted mystery. As Hubert’s behaviour grows more intolerable and Dorothy and Laurence begin plotting, the first third of the book ends with a death. The next third deals with the aftermath as the sins of the opening section begin to haunt the perpetrators, culminating in yet more disaster and it is only as the dust begins to settle that Bathurst arrives to sort out exactly what happened.

It’s very effective for the most part. The opening is suitably ominous, and the escalation in the second section is gripping, with the tension spiralling up very effectively, with new questions being raised as the guilty party starts to receive ominous messages from… someone, and one character gradually descends into madness.

There are questions left for the reader to suppose, in particular the identity of a particular woman in the plot – Flynn leaves enough indicators for the reader to put two and two together – I think – but it’s not that obvious and I can see some readers thinking that the question simply hasn’t been answered.

There’s little else I can say without spoiling this one, but it’s an impressive change of pace from Flynn. There’s a great bit of period detail with the list of contents of a Fortnum and Mason Christmas hamper (well, Pegram and Manson) and some clearer indications of sex than in many other such books. There’s also an odd reference to “the second German war”. The book was written in 1941 – was Flynn assuming the war would be over, or simply another conflict with Germany? Was there another war he was referring to? Regardless, this is a very interesting book, something very different from Flynn and hopefully, you’ll get a chance to take a look at some point.

3 comments

  1. Thanks for the review – does it live up to the description on the front cover, ‘most ingenious thriller’, though?

    Anyway, hope things are safe and ok at your end – take care! I’m looking forward to your next review, as I’ve heard good things about it, and have a copy on my shelf.

    Like

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