The Billiard Room Mystery by Brian Flynn (1927)

One of Anthony Bathurst’s passions is detective fiction, and a belief that he has the abilities to solve a crime as well as Scotland Yard. And when he is invited to Sir Charles Considine’s annual Cricket Week house party he gets his chance. In the early hours of the morning, family and guests at Considine Manor are awoken by a woman’s screams. A maid has found one of the other guests dead, in the Billiard Room with a dagger protruding from his neck. Or was he strangled? And what has become of Lady Considine’s pearls? 

Flynn set out to prove he could write detective fiction, and I must say, while not perfect, for a first novel this was pretty darn good. His plot is solid, and he offers up not one, but two crimes for the reader to solve, creating just the right amount of confusion, without derailing the plot. He provides lots of subtle hints as to potential motives, several pretty good red herrings, and provides the clues from the very beginning, even listing them on occasion. Oh there were issues of course. There were clues, that once brought up appeared to go nowhere – the strange walk of the man seen by the maid for example. 

There is a fairly large cast of characters, but it never proves unwieldy. Flynn proves adept at focusing the narrative on only a few, Bathurst, Bill Cunningham (his Watson), and Inspector Baddeley, allowing the story to unfold through their simultaneous, yet not always equal, investigations. Bathurst is charming, intelligent, and makes an engaging protagonist. But, there is a definite immaturity in the character. He is very sure of himself, and while not exactly cavalier regarding the murder, in the beginning he is just a little too eager to prove his untried abilities. But, as the story unfolds, there is a sense that he does begin to feel the seriousness of it all. 

And then there is that twist at the end. Flynn played the story out so well that I was still second guessing myself, almost right up to the end. Yes, as others have pointed out regarding that twist, it’s similar to another Golden Age title, which I’ve also read. But that’s were the similarities end, with the twist. In addition, Flynn’s characterization of the culprit is very important in setting his work apart from any other. This is not a sympathetic character. As has been said in many a GAD novel, this is an individual with a definate “kink” in their brain.

Even with it’s flaws this was quite enjoyable and definitely worth the read. 

My Judgment – 4/5

Prior Rulings – The Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, TomCat @ Beneath the Stains of Time

Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2020 – Fulfills #15. A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit. (Van Dine #11) To avoid spoilers–any book where a servant is important in any way–culprit, suspect, victim, vital witness, detective.

Murder Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge – Red Herrings: Maid or housekeeper

Calendar of Crime Reading Challenge – June: Author’s birth month

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