Mary Barton was killed in June – an unsolved murder, but one that raised little interest. A young, attractive girl, violated and murdered, her body found in bushes in Southdene on the south coast of England. When her uncles try to recruit Anthony Bathurst to find her killer, he is reluctant. Six months have passed, the police found no leads – what hope could he have of finding the truth?
Nevertheless, Bathurst takes the case, but finds little illumination. Why did Mary decide to head to Southdene, rather than head home to Yorkshire as planned, on the day of her death? What is the significance of the book containing the phrase “Queen Mary” that Mary was carrying? Was it her obsession with real-life criminals that caused her death? And even if the killer is identified, with six months past and no evidence – can they ever be brought to justice?
The forty-third Anthony Bathurst mystery (out of fifty-three), I was saving this one for my upcoming special birthday – I found it online a couple of months ago and it’s been staring at me for a while from my coffee table. Well, after some stressful bits and pieces regarding work, courtesy of the Department of Education and the short-sighted exam boards, I decided that I needed a bit of good old Brian, so decided to read it early.
It’s an interesting tale, following (mostly) Bathurst as he pieces together some very disparate threads to track down the killer. I think the book it reminds me most of is The Sea Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts, as we follow the investigation. We aren’t presented with a closed circle of suspects, the killer is simply discovered at the end of the chase – although the alert reader may well have figured out who they are, as there is an indication earlier on in the book.
It works very effectively, as Bathurst is always good company, and without Inspector MacMorran to tease – he’s in it a bit towards the end – he doesn’t resort to his intellectual showing-off that he can be guilty of. He even manages (possibly) to notice the female character who, as is par for the course, falls head over heels for him.
The story is more about Mary Barton, pictured on the cover but she doesn’t miraculously appear alive at any point, and the slow building of the truth of her character and what happened to her, and it’s, for the most part, very satisfying. The motive for her death is a little disappointing, with some actions towards the end seemingly bent to fit the plot, rather out of character for her, but that’s the only gripe I’ve got with it.
It’ll be a good while before you might get a chance to read this one, but there are more Bathursts on the way from the good folk at Dean Street Press – very exciting as there’s a good few of the next batch that even I haven’t read yet! But if they are close to the standard of this one, we’ve got at least ten more treats to come…