Bathurst 26 – They Never Came Back (1940) by Brian Flynn

“I don’t like any of it. He’s either being prevented from going home by force . . . or else he’ll never go home again.”

‘Lefty’ Donovan, a boxer, leaves home after receiving a mysterious offer that seems too good to be true-and is never seen again. His wife, Flora, approaches Anthony Bathurst to look for her husband, but he fears the worst, especially when he discovers another fighter who had vanished in identical circumstances weeks earlier.

As time ticks down to a crucial bout, a body is found, suffering from terrible clawed lacerations, with a mysterious footprint nearby. The work of a mythical beast? The truth is that Bathurst finds himself up against an enemy even more monstrous . . .

Only two months to go before the next ten Brian Flynn Anthony Bathurst mysteries are republished by Dean Street Press, so it’s time for another review to wet your whistle with another review.

Books 21 to 30 are a varied collection of styles, even for Brian, with a couple of inverted mysteries – Black Edged and Such Bright Disguises – and one straight thriller, The Grim Maiden, sitting alongside his more classic-style mysteries. They Never Came Back, the twenty-fifth title, is a fascinating beast, straddling the whodunit and thriller genre, with more than a whiff of the pulp adventure style about it.

The mysterious disappearance of boxers that seem organised to disrupt one particular prize fight, the result of which might well ruin one of the sponsors, is the focus for the first half of the book, but once that fight happens, the second half veers in a slightly different direction, as events rattle along in a chase to find another vanished fighter.

The book is never going to win any awards for a great long-lost mystery novel as it does veer strongly into the ranks of unbelievability at times – Bathurst suggesting the only creature capable of making the wounds on the corpses being a Pteranodon, for example. He is winding up the local constabulary, but even so. And the big picture of what is going on… well, it is a tad on the silly side. And quite a big tad at that.

They Never Came Back is an odd book, but contains all the touches that fans of Flynn will enjoy. It might not be the best title to convert a new reader, but it’s a lot of fun, nonetheless. This is one of the titles that I have never seen for sale at any price, but in two short months, that will no longer be the case. Hurrah!

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