Suspicion In Triplicate (1971) by Belton Cobb

Your husband must have a complete mental rest. Take him to the country where there are no criminals and preferably no police.

Detective Chief Inspector Bryan Armitage was feeling the stress of his job, so he was sent on leave, with his wife, Detective Sergeant Kitty Armitage, ordered to accompany him and keep him away from any work-based activity. They mustn’t even tell anyone that they are police officers…

And then Kitty met Simon Etheridge and suspected that he was a criminal.

And Etheridge met Bryan and suspected he was a policeman.

And Kitty suspected Etheridge as well. But neither of them suspected what he was actually up to…

With Belton Cobb, I’ve decided not to do with John Rhode and read the earliest titles possible, as most of the Rhode titles that I’ve not read are the later and, shall we say, crapper ones. So while I’ve stockpiled a load of Cobb’s books, I’m making a point of reading them in a fairly random order. So I thought I’d jump right to the end of his canon with this one. Actually, I think most online bibliographies have this as his last book, but I think it’s actually the penultimate one as I Fell Among Thieves isn’t listed in the frontispiece.

Anyway, this is another piece of evidence that it would take a good salesman to get the complete works of Belton Cobb reprinted. The earlier books range from fine to excellent, but I really should have listened to Curtis Evans. Because, like The Horrible Man In Heron’s Wood, it’s utter rubbish.

First of all, there isn’t any real mystery here and not much actually happens. The plot basically goes:

  • Kitty and Bryan go to the countryside
  • Kitty and Bryan get suspicious of Etheridge
  • Etheridge gets suspicious of Bryan
  • Etheridge tries and fail to get Bryan implicated with Etheridge’s teenage daughter who was topless sunbathing.
  • Etheridge gets arrested.
  • Someone else explains the not-very interesting plot.

Meh. The oddest thing is when Etheridge gets suspicious of Bryan’s cover story – he claims to work for Immigration, which apparently involves chasing immigrants over the South Downs in the middle of the night – his immediate response is to assume he is a policeman for absolutely no reason other than Bryan coincidentally drove past Etheridge when he was up to something.

And the topless sunbathing bit?

Even if the bra is decadent, I think I had better wear it, so that you don’t forget you’re a gentleman.

Ignoring the gender politics, which aren’t as cringeworthy as some of the attitudes from the aforementioned The Horrible Man In Heron’s Wood, you also have to admire the stupidity of Etheridge’s plan to catch Bryan in a compromising situation and then… just telling people about it. This was 1971, there were cameras…

Oh, enough whinging. At least it was a short book. And it’s probably still better that a book advertised on the back called “Sir, You Bastard”…


    • It might have worked with a better farce structure, but the big problem for me was the revelation of the villain’s plan being a) a stupid plan and b) just being dumped on the reader and our heroes at the end.


  1. As for your last comment, probably not actually because Sir, You Bastard was by G. F. Newman who tends to be rather good on the whole, in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

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