Sir Austin Kemble is adamant that Anthony Bathurst is talking nonsense. The death of a young woman in a car crash was simply that – an accidental car crash. Bathurst, however, has another opinion. Three women have died in road accidents, all with a common thread – a travelling funfair was in the vicinity at the time.
Acting on his own, Bathurst heads off to investigate the scenes of the time, but he is running to catch up, having been diverted by another case after his suspicions first arose, and the trail is going cold. What connects the funfair to the Purple Calf night club? What actually killed the women? And will Bathurst suffer the same fate?
You might have noticed that I haven’t previously reviewed this one – one of the twenty Anthony Bathurst mysteries re-released by Dean Street Press with the help of little old me – so I thought I’d better get round to it. It was released in the US under the title of The Ladder Of Death, which is a very vague spoiler as to… something.
So why didn’t I review it? Well, it was the last of books 11 to 20 that I read, and I was saving the review for publication day. I’d read it, obviously, as I wrote the introduction to it, but I’d posted the reviews already for the rest. I left this for last… and then regretted it. A bit.
You see, this is the weakest of books eleven to twenty. Possibly the weakest of all the first twenty books. I know one reviewer whose first experience of Flynn was this book, and it didn’t convince him to come back for more. Given the US publishers at this point were picking and choosing which books to reissue, I’m a bit lost as to why this one, even with a title change, was picked ahead of, say, The Horn. Or The Padded Door.
The problem is, the plot is rather convoluted, as one might expect from the ingredients – a fun fair, an arcane murder method, mysterious car crashes and a seedy night-club. It’s not uncommon for the villain’s plan in a murder mystery not to make much sense in hindsight, but it’s pretty obviously daft in this one. There’s more that a whiff of the Scooby Doos about the finale as well…
So I didn’t want to write a review of this one on launch day, because it’s one for those who are already fans of the series. It’s perfectly readable and Bathurst is as entertaining as ever, but don’t start with this one… check out this list instead. And if you’ve read the first twenty, you might be pleased to know that plans are afoot – more are on their way (slowly).