Brian Flynn and Me – Here We Go Again…

So the big day is approaching. Only a week to go until Brian Flynn once again bursts onto the literary scene with the release after many, many years of ten more of his mystery novels.

If you haven’t heard of the mighty Flynn, you must be new to the blog. I’ve been championing him for the past four years or so, since discovering his work by chance. The full story is here – don’t worry, long time readers, I’m not going into that one again – but I do recommend reading it before going on. But I thought I’d share a few words on the upcoming titles and what to expect. These won’t be in order of publication, they are going to be in order of procurement by me – my story of these ten books, if you like.

So we start off with Tread Softly – the book that really began my obsession. Yes, I loved The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye, but it was Tread Softly, and its tale of murder while sleeping that really grabbed me and convinced me that Brian’s work was something really special. How this book isn’t better known baffles me still. From the epistolary nature of some of the opening chapters, the chapter mid-trial where we visit the thoughts of the twelve jurors, to the original plot and a motive that just spoke to me. I love this book, it’s my favourite of the Flynn novels and I’m so pleased that people get the chance to see it.

My next visit to this tranche of books was The Spiked Lion, one of Brian’s locked room mysteries. I got a very dubious copy from a dubious Indian publisher and yes, it was dubious. Thankfully I didn’t pay sixty quid for a deluxe edition that was, in fact, missing two pages. But on the plus side, it was these missing two pages that led me to discover another problem, namely that the US edition was significantly trimmed from the UK edition. Luckily, dear reader, it is the UK edition that will be adorning your bookshelves very soon. You can read all about my trials and tribulations trying to get to the bottom of this here.

Fear and Trembling is the next one, one that I’ve somewhat over-analysed on the blog, and is probably my favourite of the new covers – you can’t go wrong with a few test-tubes. Anyway, I first wrote about it back in the days where some idiot championing Brian’s work hadn’t driven the prices of his books through the roof. What a fool… Anyway, this is loads of fun, as there is all sorts going on here, with missing family members and oddly dressed gangsters. It’s a strong whodunit, with a very clever idea at its heart. And we get to see Bathurst in love. Aaah…

So, three down and… a problem arose. First of all, I couldn’t find copies of the rest for love nor (and in particular) money. The estate had copies of five of the remaining titles, but three plus five does not make ten – there was no sign of The League Of Matthias and The Edge Of Terror.

At this point, my much better half pointed out that as an alumnus of the Gleaming Spires, I had access to the Bodleian Library, which happens to have copies of, well, basically everything. Cue several trips to the library, notebook in hand, reading two or three Brian Flynn books per day. Note I still haven’t read all of them – something happened that closed the library temporarily, can’t recall what – but it did mean that I had books 11 to 20 all read. So two things remained – decipher my notes (which oscillated between being cryptic and being illegible) and track down texts that we could use of the two missing books.

The League of Matthias was particularly galling as a copy that was just outside my price range had been and gone a year previously. If it reappeared, I think I’d have paid the price for it (purely for you, dear reader) but thankfully, at around this point in time, another copy appeared that was well within my price range. One to go…

And out of the blue, a fellow Flynn collector got in touch to talk all things Flynn. Taking a bit of a punt, I asked him if he had a copy of The Edge Of Terror – and the answer was yes. And then I asked if he’d be kind enough to let Dean Street Press borrow it – and the answer was also yes! So we had the books.

I really, really like this tranche of books. It shows all of Brian’s strengths, from well-hidden villains to imaginative plots (in no particular order) – an invisible lion, a somnambulist murderer, a motive that you will either love to bits or hate with a vengeance (it’s the former for me, obviously), a Golden Age serial killer mystery that’s far better than the one that Carr liked so much, a trip to Antwerp, a love-letter to The Speckled Band, all the fun of the fair, twins, the lost treasure of the Stuarts and a shocking fact about Stilton. And, of course, the odd disguise along the way…

Working on these introductions was the highlight of lockdown for me (so I guess it’s downhill from here) and I’m really pleased that I’ve got the chance to bring a little light to your lockdown with these books.

The Anthony Bathurst Mysteries, books 11 to 20, are:

are all released in paperback and ebook on Monday 5th October from all good and some bad bookshops. What are you waiting for? Get in the queue now!

PS Oh, and before I go, I thought I’d share a comment from an Amazon review that made me smile.

“The introduction by Steve Barge and a comment by another reviewer were encouraging but falsely so. I hope these two gentlemen are guilty only of a lack of discrimination, not deliberate deception.”

It’s on a 2 star review of The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye (a book with half its reviews being 5 stars). But no dear reviewer, it is not deliberate or accidental deception and while I suppose it could be viewed as me not discriminating against entertaining mystery novels, I don’t think that’s what you’re getting at either. So my apologies if anyone else was lured into the treats that Brian’s work has to offer and came away a little confused. It does seem that such disappointed readers seem to be in the minority though. I’m delighted – and I know Brian’s family is too – that his books have found an appreciative audience once again. Fingers crossed there will be more to come after this – Anthony Bathurst has 33 more cases to solve after Tread Softly…

7 comments

  1. I am of course delighted by this news, just on general principles of availability. One question: “You can read all about my trials and tribulations trying to get to the bottom of this here.” Where?

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  2. Puzzle Doctor – congratulations once again. Your perseverance is impressive to get Flynn published and we all benefit significantly from your effort and dedication.

    I will order all ten in paperback when soon available. Same question as I asked you last year. Which one of this 2nd tranche of books do I read first to start with a strong one or should I just read them in order – what do you recommend please?

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    • Ooh… now there’s a question. I think best to start at the beginning. The weakest is certainly The Case Of The Purple Calf, but other than that, I can heartily recommend starting with any of them.

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  3. I read “Tread Softly” on the strength of your recommendation here. Thank you for your work in bringing it back into print.

    The first half is very good. The situation, of a man who admits killing but denies murder, is striking and original. His (apparent) intention to the use the double jeopardy rule to get away with murder improves on a similar idea in “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”. His defence is devilishly ingenious and although it surely would not have flown in court, Flynn does a decent job of convincing us that it might by giving us only the closing speech for the defence and nothing at all from the prosection or judge.

    The pen-portraits of the jurors are entertaining but don’t go any further—there’s no attempt to link their characters to the way that they interpret the evidence, because we aren’t shown any of the evidence presented in court. I wondered if Raymond Postgate might have read this novel and drew on this part of it for his “Verdict of Twelve” (1940), which integrates the characters of jury and the outcome of the trial in a more satisfying fashion.

    The second half is disappointing. The problem is one of “the psychology” (as Poirot would put it). What are the motives for the extraordinary actions of the characters? Flynn gives us little or nothing in the way of clues—indeed, two of the most important characters don’t have a single line of dialogue between them—so that when Bathurst in the final chapter describes their emotional state this comes out of nowhere, and there are no points on which we can appreciate what we missed. We learn more about the character of each of the twelve members of the jury than we do about these two.

    There are also some difficulties with the plot. (1) Ubj qvq gur zheqrere unccra gb yrnir gurve tybirf ng gur fprar bs gur pevzr? Jr arire trg na rkcynangvba. (2) Qnjfba fnlf ur chg gur cnpxntr pbagnvavat gur qragher “vagb Ze. Nffurgba’f unaqf” ohg guvf pna’g unir orra evtug. Ubj qvq Qnjfba pbzr gb znxr guvf reebe? Ntnva, jr arire trg na rkcynangvba. (3) Guvf jnf na haarprffnevyl evfxl jnl gb gnxr qryvirel bs gur qragher: pbhyq na nppbzzbqngvba nqqerff abg unir orra hfrq? (4) Jung jnf gur zbgvir sbe cynagvat gur erprvcg va Nffurgba’f syng? Guvf frrzf yvxr n sbbyvfu guvat gb unir qbar, fvapr vg yrq gur cbyvpr qverpgyl gb gur qragvfg. Gurer jbhyq unir orra abguvat fhfcvpvbhf nobhg gur nofrapr bs n erprvcg.

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