My foe outstretch’d beneath the tree (1967) by V C Clinton-Baddeley

Dr Davie, the renowned Cambridge academic, is visiting St Martha’s, an academic intistution at the behest of his friend Miss Eggar, and his interest is drawn to some cassette tapes. Designed to teach English, this fascinates Davie, an English scholar, but when he listens to the tape, he finds something distinctly odd about the tapes, something he can’t quite put his finger on.

Later, Davie finds himself at his London club, and in the morning, beneath a tree in the garden lies a fellow club member. Not by choice, obviously, but beaten and suffocated. Davie, as is his wont, he starts to investigate – is there a possibility that it is linked to the mysterious tapes? And what exactly is wrong with them?

This is the second of five books written by V C Clinton-Baddeley, an actor and screenwriter, these were written in the last few years of his life. A fascinating fact – he co-wrote the screenplay of a film called The Billiard Room Mystery in 1938, which has absolutely nothing to do with the book by Brian Flynn.

There are two other interesting things about this book. First of all, in all 1187 reviews that I’ve written on this blog (including this one), this is the first where only the first word in the title begins with a capital letter. OK, for the pedants out there, the only title with two or more words in it that has that property. That’s interesting,

The other interesting point – there’s a National Trust property near me that is called Baddesley Clinton, which has, as far as I know, nothing to do with Clinton-Baddeley. That’s interesting, isn’t it?

Get to the point!

What isn’t desperately interesting is this book, I’m afraid. Sleuth finds something suspicious, sleuth goes to club filled with interchangeable suspicious characters, one of them dies, sleuth uncovers criminal scheme that is really far more complicated than it should be, and then catches the villain in the act, at which point he “deduces” who the villain is, while the reader frantically thumbs the pages trying to remember which of the interchangeables he/she was – which was a problem in the first book, Death’s Bright Dart.

There are some witticisms about life at the time, with references to the media of the day, but it’s too little, I’m afraid. Can’t really recommend this – but that fact about the title was sort of interesting. Wasn’t it?

4 comments

  1. I read a couple of these years ago. Didn’t make much impression – I remember lots of wry, rather arch, observations, a love of poetry and classical music, and dull plots.

    But they’re not really young people’s books, are they? I fancy one must be an elderly Oxbridge don to fully appreciate them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you can sense the author chuckling to himself as he wrote it, and then remembering to put a mystery plot in it. Death’s Bright Dart was fine as a debut, it rather than improving, things have gone the opposite way.

      Like

  2. I enjoyed this rather more than you, both when I first read it (when I was certainly not an elderly Oxbridge don) and on re-reading it more recently (when one of those conditions has become true, though not the other) but I agree that the detection itself isn’t the most cogent possible.

    Liked by 2 people

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