Richard Arbuthnot believes that a crime is going to be committed. He has no idea what the crime is, or when it will happen, but the suspicious behaviour of a man that he sees every day on his train to work has convinced him that trouble is afoot. The man carries with him the same library book every day for weeks on end, and, when curiosity got the better of Arbuthnot and he tried to look inside it, the man reacted angrily about it. When Anthony Bathurst discovers that the library in question does not have a copy of that book on their records, he is inclined to agree that trouble is afoot.
In the meantime, Bathurst is approached by a young woman whose brother has disappeared – in the same town, Kingsley, where the man with the library book gets off the train every day. When the brother turns out to have been buried in an anonymous grave, apparently the victim of a hit and run, Bathurst realises that he is up against a dangerous adversary. But even he has not met anyone as ruthless at this before…
So, this is the next on my list of my ten reads to get me back into the reading game. You might wonder why, when I’ve already said that I’d be drip-feeding the reviews of the soon-to-be released Brian Flynn titles, that I’m doing book 30 rather than book (checks…) 25 but there are a couple of reasons. First of all, I thought I’d better do the one in my list of proposed reads and secondly… well, it’s probably the weakest of the ten upcoming titles so I thought I’d get it out of the way.
Not that it’s bad – I always find Flynn an entertaining read – but it’s different. There are a few titles that he wrote that are thrillers as opposed to mysteries – Conspiracy at Angel, When There Was Smoke and The Feet Of Death – and this is the first of these. Rather than having a problem to solve, Bathurst is trying to track down a criminal gang, a gang of extremely ruthless individuals, individuals that at one point do something a lot darker than I’ve ever seen in a GAD book.
The prime point of interest in this book is the debut (I’m 99% sure this is her first appearance, although Bathurst claims to already know her) of Helen Repton, from the “woman’s side at the “Yard””. She will go on to make occasional appeances – her next one is, I think, in The Sharp Quillet – until she becomes a near-regular in the series. Flynn clearly likes her character and sees her as important as in her appearance – she is recruited when Bathurst needs someone to go undercover as a cinema usherette – the narrative stops sitting on Bathurst’s shoulder and jumps to her instead, letting us see her point of view and see her taking the initiative, going beyond her orders to gain essential information.
But overall, I find the thrillers less interesting than the mysteries. It’s clear to me that Brian was trying new things at this point. There are a couple of inverted mysteries in this tranche of books and he was on the verge of trying to create a new sleuth under a pseudonym. While this variation isn’t as effective as the others, it’s always good to see an author trying to add new strings to their bow. I don’t expect this to be the title to convert a newcomer to Brian though…
The Grim Maiden will be re-released by Dean Street Press in September 2021, along with books 21 to 29 in the series.