This is the third novel reprinted by Dean Street Press by Christopher Bush. Like the others, it is a “Ludovic Travers Mystery”, even though he does not take the lead in the detecting, but as a person of ideas and alternative intuitions he is as always invaluable. It perhaps flows less well than the super “A Perfect Murder Case”, but it introduces the reader to the fringes of a world of the gentleman boxer, his associates and friends, and is a compulsive read in terms of plotting and policing. As with the previous book, a lot of the legwork is done by the former policeman and impressive private detective, Franklin, but the inspiration for the satisfactory solution is from the inimitable Travers.
From the start of the book there is mystery. Travers spots an acquaintance in an unusual place, and is momentarily confused. He soon becomes aware of the latest great craze, a gentleman boxer called Michael France, whose star seems much in the ascendant with a public eager to witness his skills at first hand. The invaluable manservant, Palmer, supplies details, and Travers manages to discover something of the France phenomenon. Franklin is invited to join the Claires, France’s great friends by Hayles, and enjoys a convivial evening. His next contact with France is complicated and ultimately tragic, as a double death is discovered in confusing and misleading circumstances. As a senior policeman, Wharton, takes over the case, Franklin helps to disentangle a situation which is confused by alibis, undercover agents and heavy fog. Again the female characters tend to be less important than a more modern novelist would be expected to create, but the setting of the late 1920s was a different world of action and adventure.
Overall this is a strongly written yet subtly detailed novel, with hints and clues as well as a well-constructed plot. Franklin is brave but not foolhardy, Travers adds his intuition, and Wharton lends the gravitas of a seasoned, experienced senior policeman, able to interview everyone exceptionally well, as he finds the correct level of approach for the frightened, the defiant and the liar. False trails, suspicions and mysterious houses abound, as well as wealth and some jealousy. I must admit that I did not really understand the character of France, and I found his surname confusing, but his death (or double death) comes early in the novel and many pages are spent sorting out who he was with, his finances and suspicions. I was as ever impressed with the complex yet logical plot of this novel, and it is undoubtedly a strong book in this series of murder mysteries, rediscovered and reprinted by Dean Street Press, which I was glad to receive a copy of for review.