Bathurst 22 – The Ebony Stag (1938) by Brian Flynn

Robert Forsyth, aged 73, a retired rate collector has been found dead in his house, a wound in his chest from where he has been stabbed by an unknown weapon, and his face attached so badly that “one of his front teeth was hanging from the gum”. And by the body, a small model of an ebony stag that has been, quite deliberately, smashed to pieces.

Despite the facial attack, Forsyth is clearly identified, except for one small fact. When talking to people from Forsyth’s previous locale, one important detail comes to light. Namely that he had no teeth – so how had one become attached to his gum? Determining that the murdered man was an imposter, Anthony Bathurst finds himself hunting a ruthless and violent murderer – and will come closer to death than ever before…

Well, that bugger of a virus COVID-19 has cut short my visits to the Bodleian, so we’ll be curtailing #FlynnOnFriday soon – I’ve a couple of unread books on my shelf which I do need to read soon anyway, but it’s just possible that it’ll almost certainly need to take a break soon. Ah well, there are many more important things in the world, for now at least.

So, this is book 22 in the Anthony Bathurst series, and at this point, Bathurst is almost working directly for the police. Given his two main detectives are busy on other cases, Bathurst is basically deputised to lead the investigation with the local chief constable, Major Marriner, going under the pseudonym Mr Lotherington.

What follows is a good game of misdirection as Bathurst finds himself on a treasure hunt linked to the sinking of a ship, The Royal Stag, along with cryptic clues and threatening letters – “Dear interfering Bathurst” – and an attack by a gang of murderous thugs, and yet again, Flynn does a good job of hiding the killer. You can question the fairness of the clueing but even when guessing, more often than not, I’m wrong with his murderers – I can’t say that about many writers, especially those as prolific as Flynn.

Not his strongest work, but still very entertaining, and a gripping read. One day…


    • This is something about Flynn that makes a difference from some of his fellows and that is the occasional description of the body – it’s can verge on graphic. The Case Of The Black Twenty-Two, iirc, refers to there being a bit of skull in the victim’s brain for example. Ugh.


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