Dead Man Twice by Christopher Bush (1930)

Boxer Michael France, “the idol of the British public, whether boxing or not,” has asked John Franklin to his home to discuss a series of threatening letters he has received. France is soon to fight for the title of heavy-weight champion of the world. Could someone be trying to stop him from fighting? Or is it just an elaborate publicity stunt? When Franklin arrives he finds not France, but by the body of Somers, France’s butler, dead after drinking whiskey laced with cyanide. Beneath his body is a suicide note, but in France’s handwriting. On further investigation the body of France is found in an upstairs bedroom, shot neatly through the center of his forehead. Two suicides, murder-suicide, or double murder? Franklin and Detective Superintendent Wharton investigate, with some help from Ludovic Travers.

Bush has created a plot that is clever and intricate. France’s life and his relationships with his close circle of friends come under scrutiny, and one by one, motives are uncovered. As with Bush’s previous book, The Perfect Murder, much hinges on unbreakable alibis. 

While Franklin remains a part of the case due to his knowledge of the players, it is Wharton who takes on the greater portion of the investigation. And Wharton is really very effective here. He is cunning in his interview techniques, taking on just the right persona for each individual in order to get the outcome he desires. Travers has a peripheral, but very significant role in the story, and ultimately it is he and Wharton who solve the case.

A couple of quibbles on this one. At times the story became more complicated than it needed to be. Also, Franklin rather grated on the nerves. He seemed more fan-boy than detective. I would much rather see more Ludo. Wharton is definately warming to the idea of him as Ludo worms his way into the investigation. Based on my reading of reviews of future books, I know that Franklin falls by the wayside…but when? No, don’t tell me, because I may skip ahead and then miss something important!

Slightly disappointed, but not so much as to not recommend this. I still think this was a really good story and look forward to my next read in the series.

My Judgment – 3.75/5

Prior Rulings – Beneath the Stains of TimeThe Grandest Game in the WorldVintage Pop Fictions

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