Tragedy At The Thirteenth Hole (1933) by Miles Burton

As Inspector Arnold recovers from a bout of influenza, his superiors at the Yard instruct him to take two weeks rest at the seaside. At random, he picks the resort of Heavenbeach, a town known mainly for his golf course. Arnold has little interest in the sport, but he soon will have.

On visiting the local castle, overlooking the golf course, Arnold spots the aftermath of an incident on the thirteenth green – a local businessman, Mr Burnside, has been killed after being hit on the head by a golf ball. The only thing is, there was no one around to hit the ball…

Concerned by what appears to be an additional ball on the green, Arnold invites his friend Desmond Merrion to investigate – there are just too many complications, such as the fact that eccentric historian Sir James Trotton “fell” off a cliff near the course at the same time that Burnside was killed. And the fact that the secret recipe for Burnside Sauce seems to have disappeared…

No, I haven’t managed to find this ultra-obscure Miles Burton title, I’ve been to the Bodleian again. I reserved this and the even-more-obscure-if-that’s-possible The Charabanc Mystery but I only had time to read this one. I’ll get back to the other one and its fellow obscurities soon, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at this one.

First of all, this is a very readable book. John Street aka Miles Burton gets some stick sometimes, but this had me rivetted. It focuses on Arnold, although Merrion is circling for more of the book, and the fact that he is a very competent policeman. In the first quarter of the book, he, as a Scotland Yard man,  is the senior officer of the investigation and shows it by making sensible deductions and asking shrewd questions. Even when Merrion is there, Arnold is producing ideas and evidence that Merrion is overlooking. Put it this way, he’s no Jimmy Waghorn.

There’s also a few different things to think about – assuming murder, how was the fatal golf ball delivered? How was a patient in a guarded room poisoned? And how was a document stolen from inside a safe that hadn’t been opened in years? None of these really count as an impossible crime, but it gives the reader something to ponder. There’s also some nice ideas, such as Trotton’s last words before his “accident”.

As a whodunit, it’s a bit lacking as there are only two suspects and I’m really not convinced that Street knows how a SPOILER works. Also, how does a factory produce their special sauce when only one person – the owner of the company – apparently knows the recipe? Does he come down to the factory floor and make up a pot of it every day in a darkened room? And can’t you work out the ingredients by just looking at the ingredients being delivered that aren’t being used elsewhere? The ending is a bit of a downer too.

Regardless, this was a really enjoyable read that kept me fixed on the narrative throughout. Please, someone, a mass reprinting of the Miles Burton books is a necessity. I can’t go to the library that often…

3 comments

  1. I think you’re a little unfair on Jimmy Waghorn – he does solve some cases himself, such as in “Bricklayer’s Arms” (the professor’s input on this case is really minimal).

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    • Whereas most mystery authors strive for a dramatic reveal of an unlikely suspect, most of Street’s cases seem to be a final decisive reveal among a very limited set of suspects. He is very good at offering alternate possible solutions and also at reasons or methods that yield that final needed piece of proof, and even when the reader ‘knows’ there is something coming, that final bit of evidence can be and generally is, entertainingly obtained or revealed. While Street lacks the drama and colour of Carr, I enjoy both very much. Even their collaboration.

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