The London firm “Merryweather, Lindell and Daventry—Solicitors” has received instructions from wealthy American Laurence P. Stewart that they attend an auction and purchase for him, three items that once belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots. This unusual request raises the curiosity of partners Peter Daventry and David Lindell, so while Lindell sends a telegram off to Stewart to confirm his instructions, Daventry is off to the Galleries to view the items. Stewart’s reply is terse but confirmatory and the items appear credible. All appears well.
But before the auction can occur the items are stolen, and the security guard on duty has been murdered, his skull battered in. Then it is discovered that Stewart has been murdered at his home in Berkshire, in the same way as the guard, at almost the same time. Scotland Yard sends Detective-Inspector Goodall to take charge, but Stewart’s son Charles isn’t satisfied and asks the solicitors to recommend private detective to investigate. At Daventry’s suggestion Anthony Bathurst “having nothing pressing at the moment” takes the commission. And so Bathurst, with Daventry as his Watson, sets out to investigate.
Flynn sets out with a pretty good mystery plot—two murders, in different locales but at almost the same time, linked by the theft of items with a historical connection, and to one of the victims.
Unfortunately, the story is hindered by a few issues. Once Stewart’s body is discovered the focus of the investigation becomes his murder, while the crime in London is left unresolved for much of the novel. With Stewart being found in a locked room, the suspects become limited to the household composed of only Stewart’s son, secretary, his ward, and a limited staff. The plot centers on, and seems created merely to dazzle the reader with Bathurst’s deductive, rather than investigative, talent. And Bathurst tends to keep vital intelligence to himself, purely to see the result when it is finally revealed.
‘Goodall,’ murmured Anthony, ‘I shall never be able to forget entirely the look on your face this afternoon when I asked you to fall in with my arrangements. It was an education on it’s own—really in some ways I regard it as sufficient reward in itself for the trouble I have taken over the matter…’
‘It might even have been a better education for you had you felt disposed to tell me a bit more—even now you haven’t put me wise to all that’s going on—thanks, Mr. Bathurst.’”
So far it sounds as if I really didn’t enjoy this book, but I did, just not as much as The Billiard Room Mystery or The Mystery of the Peacock’s Eye. All in all, it’s a very enjoyable, well paced read, and Flynn does provide some very good diversions to keep the reader in the dark.
My Judgment – 3.75/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2011 Vintage Mystery Take ‘Em to Trail: Book #1 of 16
Calendar of Crime Reading Challenge – June #3: Primary action takes place in this month