Bathurst 28 – Glittering Prizes (1942) by Brian Flynn

“It has been evident to me for some time that this country, the Empire and all that you and I hold dear are in deadly peril.”

Mrs. Warren Clinton, the American millionaire, summons nine talented individuals to the Royal Sceptre Hotel. Her stated purpose-to save the British Empire. Through a series of fiendish intellectual tests, she whittles the numbers down to two-only for the chosen pair to be found murdered, and for Mrs. Clinton to have vanished without trace.

Faced with the possibility of an international conspiracy, rooted in Nazi Germany, Anthony Bathurst finds himself challenged as never before. Are all of the guests invited to the hotel exactly whom they appear to be? Who can be trusted-and who is a ruthless murderer?

Well, it’s time for the last of the reviews of the Anthony Bathurst mysteries from books 21 to 30. Why is it time, you ask? You haven’t been paying attention then, as this Monday – two days from me writing this – is when those books are being re-released courtesy of Dean Street Press and little old me. I’ll post something about them in general tomorrow, but in the meantime, it’s time to talk a little about this one.

It’s an interesting one, as it’s the sole example of Brian writing about the war that was going on at the time of writing. It’s an odd approach to it, as there is a menace from the continent – threatening messages are signed “Heil Hitler” – as they attempt, or so it seems, to undermine Mrs Clinton’s attempts to protect the Empire. However, there doesn’t seem to be much of a war going on. There’s no mention of blackouts or air-raids, and one character seems to have fought in the war, and was in Germany for the Night of the Long Knives, but is now completely detached from the conflict. I suppose it could happen, but it feels as if Brian was speculating on how the country would be in a year or so’s time (the time of publication) and getting it a bit off.

Having said that, it does give this an interesting backdrop to an excellent mystery. Brian Flynn was a master at original settings, and this can sit proudly with the best of them. A bizarre initiation game to find those most adept at thwart the mysterious menace, a growing series of threats against the survivors and a charming detective in a race against time to find the truth behind the mysterious series of events.

I’m not going to say much more of the plot, because I think it’s a clever, twisty-turny affair that I’d hate to spoil. Needless to say, it’s one of my favourites from this set of ten books, and should be sitting on the shelves of any fan of classic mysteries.

Glittering Prizes will be released on Monday 6th September, along with nine other titles, by Dean Street Press in paperback and ebook form.

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