Review: The Castleford Conundrum, 1932 (Sir Clinton Driffield Mystery book #8) by J.J. Connington


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The Murder Room, 2014. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 633 KB. Print length: 282 pages. ASIN: B00KLM7W44. ISBN: 9781471906060

isbn9781471906077Book description: Philip Castleford was more than worried. Were all those years he had spent attending to Winifred’s whims, enduring her habits, to count for nothing? He hadn’t minded it too much for he thought that his daughter Hillary would have security – but now he found her shabbily treated and his own position undermined by his wife’s grasping brothers. Such were the affairs at Carron Hill one fine morning when Winifred was discovered murdered in the deserted summer house …

My take: The Castleford Conundrum unfolds at Carron Hill, Winifred Castleford’s country house. The different characters in the story are soon introduced to the readers during a family dinner. On the one side there are Philip Castleford, Winifred’s second husband, and his daughter Hillary from his first wife. On the other, Laurence and Kenneth Glencaple, Winifred’s brothers-in-law from her first marriage, her young nephew Francis, Kenneth’s son, and Constance Lindfield, Winifred’s half sister. We soon discover that Philip married Winifred for her money, mainly to offer security to the future of his daughter; but things don’t always work as one expects. Now they are both being treated as poor relatives to the family. Such is the state of things when Mrs Castleford appears dead by gunshot at the porch of her summer chalet. The hypothesis of a fatal accident is discarded soon; everything suggests she had been murdered; and Mr Castleford becomes the main suspect for she has died intestate. She had recently revoked her first testament in which her husband was her main heir, but had not yet signed a second will in which, as she had made public, she was going to leave everything to her two brothers-in-law. This was something to which they believe they are entitled. After all, Winifred’s fortune was originally coming from from the inheritance of her first husband. In a desperate attempt to prove her father’s innocence, Miss Castleford turns to Squire Wendover, who convinces Chief Constable Sir Clinton Driffield to take a look at the case.

In my view the premise on which the story is built is quite feeble. I find it difficult to believe that someone revokes a will without signing another one first, that would overturn any previous ones. And I don’t find credible that someone will announce his (o her) intentions to the new beneficiaries, without having signed a new testament before. But in spite of its flaws I really enjoyed reading The Castleford Conundrum. For me this is the first book by J.J. Connington that I’ve read, and it was thanks to Curtis Evans and his book Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery who offered me the opportunity of knowing him. It is precisely in its Introduction, written by Curtis Evans, that we can read: ‘during the Golden Age of the detective novel ….  J.J. Connington stood with fellow crime writers R. Austin Freeman, Cecil John Charles Street and Freeman Wills Crofts as the foremost practitioner in British mystery fiction of the science of pure detection.’ In fact Alfred Walter Stewart, the man behind the pen name of J.J. Connington, was an esteemed Scottish-born scientist. In this sense I believe that The Castleford Conundrum is an excellent example of the connection between a classic detective story and a mathematical puzzle. The story is narrated with pinpoint accuracy and has a stylish solution. What appears at first sight to be a straightforward case, soon turns into an interesting challenge and Stewart does an excellent job providing the readers the necessary clues while keeping their attention elsewhere. The plot is well-crafted and the portrait of characters is superb even though none is particularly attractive, with the only exception of Miss Castleford. The end result is that this is a book which is well worth reading and an author I’ll continue reading. It can be added, as an additional note, that despite being the eighth book in a series, these books can be read in no particular order.

My rating: A (I loved it).

About the author: Alfred Walter Stewart (1880 – 1947), who wrote under the pen name J. J. Connington, was born in Glasgow, the youngest of three sons of Reverend Dr Stewart. He graduated from Glasgow University and pursued an academic career as a chemistry professor, working for the Admiralty during the First World War. Known for his ingenious and carefully worked-out puzzles and in-depth character development, he was admired by a host of his better-known contemporaries, including Dorothy L. Sayers and John Dickson Carr, who both paid tribute to his influence on their work. He married Jessie Lily Courts in 1916 and they had one daughter.

The complete list of Sir Clinton Driffield Mystery series is:  Murder In The Maze (1927); Tragedy At Ravensthorpe (1927); The Case With The Nine Solutions (1928); Mystery At Lynden Sands (1928); Grim Vengeance (1929) aka Nemesis At Raynham Parva; The Boat-house Riddle (1931); The Sweepstake Murders (1931); The Castleford Conundrum (1932); The Brandon Case (1934) aka The Ha-ha Case; In Whose Dim Shadow (1935) aka The Tau Cross Mystery; A Minor Operation (1937);  For Murder Will Speak (1938) aka Murder Will Speak; Truth Comes Limping (1938); The Twenty-one Clues (1941); No Past Is Dead (1942); Jack-in-the-box (1944) and Common Sense Is All You Need (1947). The most recommended ones are shown in bold.  You can read more about J.J. Connington here.

The Castleford Conundrum has been reviewed at At the Scene of the Crime, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, Classic Mysteries, Vintage Pop Fictions,

The Orion Publishing Group publicity page

Coachwhip Publication publicity page 

Alfred Walter Stewart page at Wikipedia 

Alfred Walter Stewart, alias J. J. Connington at The Passing Tramp

El enigma Castleford de J.J. Connington

Descripción del libro: Philip Castleford se encontraba muy preocupado. ¿Acaso no habían servido de nada todos los años que había pasado atendiendo los caprichos de Winifred y padeciendo sus rarezas? Algo que no le importaba demasiado porque pensaba que su hija Hillary obtendría seguridad, pero ahora descubre que está siendo miserablemente tratada y su propia posición se ve socabada por los codiciosos hermanos de su mujer. Así estaban las cosas en Carron Hill una mañana cuando Winifred aparece asesinada en la deshabitada casa de veraneo …

Mi opinión: El enigma Castleford se desarrolla en Carron Hill, la casa de campo de Winifred Castleford. Los diferentes personajes de la historia son presentados pronto a los lectores durante una cena familiar. Por un lado están Philip Castleford, el segundo marido de Winifred, y su hija Hillary de su primera esposa. Por otro, Laurence y Kenneth Glencaple, cuñados de Winifred de su primer matrimonio, su joven sobrino Francis, el hijo de Kenneth, y Constance Lindfield, la media hermana de Winifred. Pronto descubrimos que Philip se casó con Winifred por su dinero, principalmente para ofrecer seguridad al futuro de su hija; pero las cosas no siempre funcionan como uno espera. Ahora ambos son tratados como parientes pobres de la familia. Tal es el estado de las cosas cuando la señora Castleford aparece muerta de un disparo en el porche de su chalet de verano. La hipótesis de un accidente fatal se descarta pronto; todo sugiere que ella había sido asesinada; y el Sr. Castleford se convierte en el principal sospechoso porque ella murió intestada. Recientemente había revocado su primer testamento en el que su marido era su principal heredero, pero aún no había firmado un segundo testamento en el que, como había hecho público, iba a dejar todo a sus dos cuñados. Esto es algo a lo que creen que tienen derecho. Después de todo, la fortuna de Winifred provenía originalmente de la herencia de su primer marido. En un intento desesperado por demostrar la inocencia de su padre, la señorita Castleford recurre al Squire Wendover, quien convence al jefe de policía, Sir Clinton Driffield, para que examine el caso.

En mi opinión, la premisa sobre la que se basa la historia es bastante débil. Me resulta difícil creer que alguien revoca un testamento sin antes firmar otro, que invalidaría los anteriores. Y no encuentro creíble que alguien anuncie sus intenciones a los nuevos beneficiarios, sin haber firmado un nuevo testamento antes. Pero a pesar de sus defectos, realmente disfruté leyendo El enigma Castleford . Para mí, este es el primer libro de J.J. Connington que he leído, y fue gracias a Curtis Evans y su libro Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery quien me ofreció la oportunidad de conocerlo. Es precisamente en su Introducción, escrita por Curtis Evans, que podemos leer: “durante la Edad de Oro de la novela policíaca …”. J.J. Connington destaca junto a sus colegas autores de novelas de crímenes R. Austin Freeman, Cecil John Charles Street y Freeman Wills Crofts como el practicante más destacado en la novela de misterio británica de la ciencia  de investigación pura”. De hecho, Alfred Walter Stewart, el hombre detrás del seudónimo de J.J. Connington, fue un destacado científico escocés. En este sentido, creo que El enigma Castleford es un excelente ejemplo de la conexión entre una historia de detectives clásica y un acertijo matemático. La historia está narrada con precisión milimétrica y tiene una solución elegante. Lo que a primera vista parece ser un caso sencillo, pronto se convierte en un desafío interesante y Stewart hace un excelente trabajo proporcionando a los lectores las pistas necesarias mientras mantiene su atención en otra parte. La trama está bien elaborada y el retrato de los personajes es excelente, aunque ninguno sea particularmente atractivo, con la única excepción de Miss Castleford. El resultado final es que este es un libro que vale la pena leer y un autor que continuaré leyendo. Se puede agregar, como nota adicional, que a pesar de ser el octavo libro de una serie, estos libros se pueden leer sin ningún orden en particular

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Alfred Walter Stewart (1880 – 1947), quien escribió bajo el seudónimo de J. J. Connington, nació en Glasgow, el menor de tres hijos del Reverendo Dr. Stewart. Se graduó por la Universidad de Glasgow y desarrolló una carrera académica como profesor de química, trabajando para el Almirantazgo durante la Primera Guerra Mundial. Conocido por sus ingeniosos y minuciosos rompecabezas y un completro desarrollo de sus personajes, fue admirado por muchos de sus contemporáneos más conocidos, entre ellos Dorothy L. Sayers y John Dickson Carr, quienes le rindieron homenaje a su influencia en su obra. Se casó con Jessie Lily Courts en 1916 y tuvieron una hija.

La lista completa de la serie de misterio protagonizada por Sir Clinton Driffield es: Murder In The Maze (1927); Tragedy At Ravensthorpe (1927); The Case With The Nine Solutions (1928); Mystery At Lynden Sands (1928); Grim Vengeance (1929) aka Nemesis At Raynham Parva; The Boat-house Riddle (1931); The Sweepstake Murders (1931); The Castleford Conundrum (1932); The Brandon Case (1934) aka The Ha-ha Case; In Whose Dim Shadow (1935) aka The Tau Cross Mystery; A Minor Operation (1937);  For Murder Will Speak (1938) aka Murder Will Speak; Truth Comes Limping (1938); The Twenty-one Clues (1941); No Past Is Dead (1942); Jack-in-the-box (1944) and Common Sense Is All You Need (1947). Los más recomendados se muestran en negrita. Puede continuar leyendo más sobre J.J. Connington aquí.

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3 thoughts on “Review: The Castleford Conundrum, 1932 (Sir Clinton Driffield Mystery book #8) by J.J. Connington

  1. I know just what you mean about having problems with some of the premises of a book, but enjoying it anyway. This does sound good – all the elements I like: family mystery, country house, inheritance and wills…

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