When Durangos, Limited receives a request from Claude Rook for “a most reliable, intelligent, cultured man” who must know something about china and has an appreciation of music, they of course send Ludovic Travers. What follows is a rather bizarre evening which ends with the eccentric Rook pressing a manuscript of music on Travers, insisting that he keep it – “in trust.”
Some days later a chance encounter with Superintendent George Wharton results in Travers tagging along to the scene of a questionable suicide. What they find may look like a man who has hung himself, but several odd things about his death lead them to believe it is murder. Most telling – his facial appearance has been deliberately altered. And Travers realizes that he recognizes the man. It is Claude Rook. Travers and Wharton, with the help of old friend John Franklin, are drawn into an investigation that all hinges on a manuscript of a dead man’s music.
This is early Bush, and he still has three detectives to deal with. Travers, the amateur detective with his eclectic interests and flashes of inspiration; Franklin, the PI and man of action; Wharton, the Scotland Yard detective with a memory for past cases and an “urbane-cum-paternal manner” that puts witnesses at their ease. To handle this Bush compartmentalizes the investigation, separating his detectives and often making them unaware of the others actions. Franklin travels to Italy to uncover clues with only the information in Rooks music to lead him. Travers and Wharton work as a team, albeit a somewhat one-sided one as Wharton loves to keep his cards close to the vest. As I’ve said in previous reviews, my preference is for the teaming of Travers and Wharton. Their relationship is one of a mutual skepticism towards each other that is often very amusing.
“…He gave Travers a look that was half affectionate, half anxious, and wholly dissimulating. ‘I’ve been thinking you’d like to slip back to town for a bit. Nothing here to interest you at the moment….Routine work mostly….I’ll give you a ring. Sometime to-night probably.’
Travers felt suddenly as if he’d been wiped clean and put back on the shelf.”
While the killer’s identity becomes fairly obvious, with a plot that involves musical riddles, hidden identities, international criminals, and long-held grudges, Bush provides plenty of diversion, as well as some unexpected twists.
An enjoyable read. This is definitely a Bush to check out.
My Judgment – 4/5
Previous Judgments – Nick @ The Grandest Game in the World
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – Vintage Mystery Challenge 2016: Scavenger Hunt – Dead Body
Calendar of Crime Reading Challenge – December # 2: Author’s birth month