The Four Defences by J. J. Connington (1940)

Mark Brand, aka “The Counselor”, was bored, so when he receives a request to reach out to his radio host for information regarding a recent death he is intrigued. The body of an unidentified man has been found in a burnt-out car, and while the coroner thinks it’s a simple case of suicide, the local police believe it’s murder. Brand was only supposed to request information, but this is the “sort of thing that interests” him, and he’s soon off to investigate.

‘This affair interests me more and more as I think over it. Scope for my particular talents in it, evidently…My plans are complete to the last detail. I shall broadcast it, asking for information. I shall then take that information down to Fernhurst-Hordle in a public-spirited way. Then I shall endeavor to play off old Frobisher against the police, thus giving scope to my peculiar diplomatic capacity. Tertiusgaudens, in fact. A providential opportunity, no less.’” 

Let’s start out with what I liked about The Four Defences. It’s a complex, multilayered puzzle with a livelier style than that found in Connington’s Sir Clinton Driffield books.  

Okay—that was easy. Now, moving on to the flip side. 

The character of Brand is animated, energetic, intelligent, and always willing to share his views. So how is this a bad thing? A beagle puppy can be described in exactly the same way—Brand and his sharing of views can be equated to a beagle and their yodeling howl—and I wouldn’t want either in my face all the time. His flourishes of speech, and his need to expound a length on his theories, plans, and accomplishments became quite a bore. It’s not at all surprising that there were three different characters who checked their watches while talking with him. It all made me long to skip entire sections, but found that difficult as his soliloquies were peppered with clues. 

Also, any enjoyment that I received from the complexity of the puzzle was lost in, not only Brand’s interminable chatter, but the endless restatement of facts. Did we really need to read the exact same information regarding one particular piece of evidence four times? And did the last two chapters have to restate every single thing that had occurred throughout the case? And the worst part of the entire thing is that we don’t even get the benefit of seeing an arrest. Brand just blithely walks away before the case is completed—of course with final instructions to the Inspector on how to wrap things up.

I think I’ll be sticking with Sir Clinton in the future.

Prior Rulings – Nick Fuller @ The Grandest Game in the World, JJ @ The Invisible Event

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza—2015 Bingo—Read one book with a number in the title 

5 thoughts on “The Four Defences by J. J. Connington (1940)

    1. Connington wrote the verbosity into the character in such a way that I couldn’t tell if he though it made Brand vivacious and charming, or to give him a quirk—like all amateur detectives of that time were “supposed” to have. Either way, he was just bore.

  1. This was the second Connington I read, and I found it such a chore that I was thoroughly dissuaded from trying anything else by him for a while. Thankfully that’s been reversed, and I’m not regretting having bought a bunch of his books earlier this year, but, man, was this ever a slog…!

    Maybe I’ll give it another go after I’ve read everything else by him and find it charming, but for now I’m happy to have moved on…and I recommend you find another Connington before too long so that you can banish the memory of this on ASAP 🙂

      1. Well, I’ve got about 18 JJC novels to get through before that point…so I may not have the energy when it comes to it. But some well-read GADers rate this one very highly, so I do wonder if I missed something key about it through an unfamiliarity with his work (though your less-than-glowing experience with it has, I’ll admit, put my mind at rest a little more in that regard 😄).

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