“To Scotland Yard:
A certain person has done away with a mother and three little ones and buried them in the back garden of No. 51-A Chalk Farm road.” Justice
An anonymous note sends Detective Inspector J. Humphrey Bull looking into what he thinks is probably a hoax. What he finds is an odd woman who has buried a box with a mother cat and three kittens in her yard. Knowing that something is not right about the situation, but with no proof of a crime, Bull unofficially enlists his former landlord, Mr. Evan Pinkerton, to keep an eye out on the house. Meanwhile, Bull must investigate when an unidentified dead man is discovered in the supposed vacant house of Mr. Arthurington. Multiple suspects with the means, motive, and opportunity leave him with more questions than answers. As the two cases begin to intersect, it is Mr. Pinkerton who’s endless curiosity helps to identify the clues that allow Bull to discover the culprit.
I picked this book up on a whim while browsing a local used book shop. I’d never heard of the author David Frome, but the cover art caught my eye, and the blurb was interesting so I thought…what the heck!
First, a bit about the author, and when I say a bit, I mean it because information is scarce on this one. David Frome is one of several pseudonyms used by American writer Zenith Jones Brown. Brown also wrote under the names Leslie Ford and Brenda Conrad, and created the characters Colonel John Primrose and Grace Latham.
Now on to The Man From Scotland Yard…
I enjoyed this book immensely. The character of Mr. Evan Pinkerton is truly endearing. Pinkerton is a “timid grey little Welshman, whose friendship with a Detective-Inspector of Scotland Yard was the one bright spot in a life otherwise, and in other times, terrorized by rigid aunts, mischievous schoolboys, and a shrewish wife.” Inspector Bull is thoughtful and careful, with “a mild passion for order”. He is described as looking “like an elephant in the clothing of a brown bear.” The unlikely relationship between the two is one of the most important aspects of the story. Pinkerton has an earnest need to help, and while his efforts sometimes baffle and go astray, Bull knows that ultimately those efforts bear fruit.
"He's probably got the man you're hunting locked up in a wardrobe or something. He's always on the right track you know."
"I know", said Bull."
The plot is a fairly simple one which Frome attempts to complicate with complex personal secrets, troubled relationships, and several pretty significant coincidences. While one suspect does stand out, there are enough question marks and diversions to keep you guessing till the end. The story is infused with gentle humor, again via the Pinkerton/Bull relationship and Mr. Pinkerton’s adventures in detecting. Though it is not an overly exciting read, it moves along well.
All in all a delightful read that I do recommend.
My Ruling – 4/5