Murder Of An Owl (1956) by Glyn Carr

Robert Trapett has returned to Snowdonia after a time away. Snowdonia holds terrible memories for him, but he is doing his duty as leader of the 2nd Orton Scout Troop, taking three senior scouts to help them earn their climbing badge, as well as a junior scout – a member of Owl Patrol – as a non-climber (he’s not old enough) to provide the cooking. One evening on the expedition, as the troop are being regaled by Sir Abercrombie Lewker about his recent trip to the Himalayas, a stranger appears with the news that he has just found a body on the nearby mountainside – a body in an Owl Patrol uniform. But nobody from the troop is missing…

Lewker is holidaying nearby at Dol Afon – the place he was staying at for Death On Milestone Buttress – with his wife and some members of his acting troupe, but when he develops suspicions that the death of the young boy was no mere accident, he and Inspector Grimmett face an impossible investigation. Nobody in either party had a motive to kill the boy or had any opportunity to do so…

Murder Of An Owl is the seventh of the fifteen Glyn Carr Lewker mysteries – another trip to the Bodleian Library, as this is one of the many unreprinted titles in the series. You’ll be looking at over sixty quid for a copy of this one, and, because it’s just a book, it’s not worth that amount of money. But should you ever come across an affordable copy of it, then it’s definitely worth picking up. And not just because you could flog it for sixty-plus quid…

Carr (well, Showell Styles to use his real name) wrote mountaineering mysteries very much in the traditional Golden Age style – a quirky sleuth, a closed circle of suspects, clues, and a plot with a sense of things happening not quite the same way you might have assumed.

This is a really good example of Carr’s work – I was a little concerned after A Corpse At Camp Two that the Rue Morgue reprints were the best examples from the series, but this is up there with the best of the series that I’ve read to date. Carr’s love of Snowdonia shines through – it’s a region that I am vaguely familiar with, which adds a little something to my reading. The plot is also nicely paced, with no sense of treading water with multiple interviews. Carr keeps things moving forward with revelations, plot complications and some mountaineering evidence-hunting trips. He’s also starting to call back to earlier cases, with spoiler-free references to Death On Milestone Buttress, Death Under Snowdon and A Corpse At Camp Two. There’s a nice sense of non-essential continuity here – there’s even a reference to the Lewker spy thrillers written under Styles’ own name.

There’s a bundle of red herrings before we get to the truth, and the truth is nicely complex and clear at the same time. While there is a bit of coincidence knocking around here – two things of note, to be honest – you might not notice them if you don’t think to hard about it. Oh, and it also has one of the nicest detective-novel-love-stories that you’ll read.

One final fascinating fact – the phrase “making love” was often used in GA fiction to basically mean wooing. By the time of this book, it has taken on the modern meaning.

And another final thing – I applaud the use of the word “cerebrate” as a verb.


  1. I’ve come across the term in loads of GA and other fiction up to the fifties. I’d guess the earlier meaning of “wooing” began to fade during WWII, was on the way out in the fifties, where it can sometimes be found with a possible double entendre, and gone by the sixties (“make love not war”, etc.) If I had to guess – and I am guessing completely here – I’d say it was a class thing, that posher people used to use it for “paying court”, you never come across “‘let me tell yer, guv’nor, when I was makin’ love to ‘er that’s now the missus…” do you?


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