A Crime is Afoot Leisure Reading December 2020

leisure_readingThe Adventure of the Abbey Grange” (1904) s.s. by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“The Man in the Passage” (1913 ) s.s. by G. K. Chesterton

Maigret and Monsieur Charles, 1972 (Inspector Maigret #75) by Georges Simenon (translator: Ros Schwartz)

The Lost Gallows, 1931 (Henri Bencolin, #2) by John Dickson Carr

Castle Skull, 1931 (Henri Bencolin #3) by John Dickson Carr

The Murders near Mapleton, 1929 (Bathurst Mysteries Book # 4) by Brian Flynn

The Red Right Hand (1945) by Joel Townsley Rogers

“The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps That Ran”, 1928 (A Lord Peter Wimsey s.s.) by Dorothy L. Sayers, also as “The Footsteps That Ran” in Lord Peter Views the Body, Gollancz 1928 (read but I posted nothing about it).

A Year in Retrospect and Reading Targets for the Upcoming Year

My Favourite books, this year that is coming to an end, have been (in ascending order):

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Death of Jezebel, 1948 (Inspector Cockrill #4) by Christianna Brand

Mortmain Hall, 2020 (Rachel Savernake Golden Age Mysteries Series # 2) by Martin Edwards 

The Red Right Hand (1945) by Joel Townsley Rogers

Besides I finished reading the complete series of Maigret mysteries.  Perhaps you may like to have a look at my favourite mysteries here.

Among the writers to which I’ll pay more attention next year are mainly: Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr.

I completed reading Agatha Christie’s book series featuring Hercule Poirot. My ten favourite Poirots are here. I will continue reading other Christies, series or standalone, by the way The Pale Horse was a pleasant discovery as well as Superintendent Battle here

Have started to tackle John Dickson Carr’s Books. At this stage I have focused mainly on his  Henri Bencolin series. I very much enjoyed The Lost Gallows, 1931 (Henri Bencolin, #2) by John Dickson Carr and I’m looking forward to reading the fourth book in the series that is scheduled to be published in the first half of 2021, using its US title, The Corpse in the Waxworks. But I’ve not forgotten either Sir Henry Merrivale or Dr Fell.

And Ellery Queen books will be among my top priorities next year, as I’ve already announced, here.

Wish that Cecil John Street books were more easily available, though I have some of his novels written under his two best known pen names, Miles Burton and John Rhode, that I also look forward to reading soon.

Neither I forgot to read  some of J. J. Connington and Freeman Wills Crofts books. Particularly I enjoyed much The Case With Nine Solutions and Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy. And I look forward to reading more books by this two authors in the coming year.

I wouldn’t like to forget mentioning other authors I’m interested in like E.C.R. Lorac, Christianna Brand, Christopher Bush, Anthony Berkeley, and Brian Flynn. Of whom I have read and enjoyed this year several of their books.

I hope to find the time to read some Honkaku mysteries which I’m still holding on my TBR pile.

And I still have to read Hake Talbot’s Rim of the Pit, the book with which I will inaugurate my readings this coming January.

In addition I intend to read most if not all the books included in John Pugmire’s Novels for a Locked Room Library and in Martin Edwards’ The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, an ongoing project with no envisaged date for its completion.

And last but not least, some of the titles on my TBR pile which I hope I’ll soon be able to read:

Death Walks in Eastrepps, 1931 (An Inspector Wilkins Mystery) by Francis Beeding

The Great Hotel Murder (1935) by Vincent Starrett

Vultures in the Sky, 1935 (A Hugh Rennert Mystery) by Todd Downing

Catt Out of the Bag (1939) by Clifford Witting

Sealed Room Murder (1941) by Rupert Penny

My Book Notes: The Red Right Hand (1945) by Joel Townsley Rogers

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280 Steps, 2014. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 329 KB. Print Length: 191 pages. eISBN: 978-82-93326-19-9. ASIN: B00IA3S94S. With a new introduction by award-winning British crime novelist Martin Edwards, 2013. Written in 1945, The Red Right Hand is considered to be a classic of the American mystery genre. Originally published by Simon and Schuster, New York in 1945.

21414526Synopsis: There was a Little Man – Who Got Away
But how? He killed St. Erme. But what did he do with St. Erme’s right hand? St. Erme had a right hand, that much is indisputable. And it must be found. These are the two most essential questions in the sinister problem that confronts me – the problem I must find an answer to before the killer strikes me down too. With the answer to either or both of those questions the police would have the ugly red-eyed killer stopped. Meanwhile the problem had both the police and Dr. Riddle stopped…

From the Introduction: The novel, first published in 1945, was a revised and expanded version of a novella which first appeared in the New Detective magazine in March of that year. The book enjoyed a particular vogue in France, and won the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere. French critics compared it not only to the work of Poe, inventor of the “locked room” detective story, and John Dickson Carr, who developed “impossible crime” stories into a fine art, but also to the twisty, atmospheric mysteries of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, the duo responsible for the novels filmed as Vertigo and Les Diaboliques. How sad that neither Hitchcock nor Cluzot adapted The Red Right Hand into a movie. Filming such an elaborate story-line would be a challenge worthy of those masters of suspense. (Martin Edwards)

My Take: For a brief summary of this story I would like to direct you to Publishers Weekly here. However, if you haven’t read this book yet, maybe it would be better to start reading it, without further ado. It might be of interest however to know beforehand that it has no chapters and, accordingly, it would be convenient to count with enough time ahead to read it in one sitting. Even so I’m pretty sure that once you start reading it you won’t be able to put it down. I was fortunate to read it between Christmas and Boxing Day without distraction. The reading is quite demanding and requires the closer possible attention, given that the story-line does not follow a linear pattern and contains some leaps in the timeframe.

The author sets the tone of what is in store from the opening lines:

There is one thing that is most important, in all the dark mystery of tonight, and that is how that ugly little auburn-haired red-eyed man, with his torn ear and his sharp dog-pointed teeth, with his twisted corkscrew legs and his truncated height, and all the other extraordinary details about him, could have got away and vanished so completely from the face of the country side after killing Inis St. Erme.

The story, narrated in the first person by Dr Henry N. Riddle, Jr., of St. John’s Medical and New York S. & P., begins when he was trying to get his own stalled car started at a crossroad on Swamp Road. Despite  that there were numerous witnesses that ensured to have seen a car passing by, Dr Riddle was claiming he had seen no one going through. Although, to tell the truth, it makes no actual difference whether he saw the murderer car go by. Others had seen it, and to them it was not invisible or a phantom.

In conclusion, I would like to quote here the words of Brian Ransom at The Paris Review:  ‘By the time the final pages swing by, snapping out of the expository slackness to deliver a series of revelations that completely upend the story, the reader is liable to feel as though they’ve been taken for a ride in that Cadillac themselves. But it’s well worth the bewilderment; the desperate calculations and dogged attention I paid The Red Right Hand culminated in the most enjoyable reading experience of my year.’

Undoubtedly one of the best books, if not the best, I’ve read this year. The Red Right Hand by Joel Townsley Rogers is included in Martin Edwards’ The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

141831The Red Right Hand has been reviewed, among others, at Mystery File, Tipping My Fedora,‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ Christine Poulson, In Search of the Classic Mystery Book, Col’s Criminal Library, Past OffencesPattinase, Ruination Street, Mysteries Ahoy! Crime Reads, James Scott Byrnside, the crime segments, The Green Capsule, and Countdown John’s Christie Journal.

About the Author: Joel Townsley Rogers (1896–1984) was an American writer who wrote science fiction, air-adventure, and mystery stories and a handful of mystery novels. Born in 1896 in Sedalia, Missouri, he studied at Harvard University. He joined the navy air corps and became one of its first few hundred flyers. He went through training in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Great War seemed an adventure to the young men of that generation. Rogers was aching to go overseas, and in fact he managed to get himself in a position to do so, had the armistice not intervened. He was sent to Pensacola as a flight instructor instead. According to one of his letters, the planes he flew and taught others to fly were tiny pontooned biplanes made of spruce and linen. After the war he made use of his experiences and vivid imagination to sell short stories to the many pulp magazines that sold in the 1920s and 1930s for fifteen or twenty cents. His most famous novel is The Red Right Hand which was first published in 1945 and was adapted from a story published in New Detective. The book sold fairly well and was reissued several times in paperback format. Besides that book, Rogers published hundreds of short stories and three other novels which were not as successful: Once in a Red Moon (1923), Lady With the Dice (1946), and The Stopped Clock (1958, reissued as Never Leave My Bed in 1963). Each of his last three books was an expanded version of a shorter story. Late in his life, he was working on another novel, but so far this has not seen the light of day. Joel Townsley Rogers died in Washington, D.C. in 1984. The Red Right Hand is considered Rogers’ masterpiece, and deservedly so. It’s a classic scary story told from the first-person and has been reprinted several times. Anyone interested in reliving some of the suspense and terror that the grand masters of crime fiction, like Cornell Woolrich, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and John Dickson Carr wrote, must read The Red Right Hand. It’s fairly easy to find. The Red Right Hand has been re-published this year by American Mystery Classics both in hardcover and paperback as well as in e-book format. (Source: Compilation based on Wikipedia and other sources)

The Joel Townsley Rogers Project

Other articles about Joel Townsley Rogers: The Passing Tramp and Death Can Read.

La Mano Derecha Roja, de Joel Townsley Rogers

Sinopsis: Había un hombre pequeño, que se escapó
¿Pero cómo? Mató a St. Erme. Pero, ¿qué hizo con la mano derecha de St. Erme? St. Erme tenía mano derecha, eso es indiscutible. Y hay que encontrarlo. Estas son las dos preguntas más esenciales en el siniestro problema al que me enfrento: el problema al que debo encontrar una respuesta antes de que el asesino me golpee también. Con la respuesta a una o ambas preguntas, la policía hubiera detenido al feo asesino de ojos rojos. Mientras tanto, el problema tiene paralizados tanto a la policía como al Dr. Riddle …

De la Introducción: La novela, publicada por primera vez en 1945, es una versión revisada y ampliada de una novela corta que apareció por primera vez en la revista New Detective en marzo de ese año. El libro se puso de moda en Francia y ganó el Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere. Los críticos franceses lo compararon no solo con el trabajo de Poe, inventor de la historia de detectives del “cuarto cerrado”, y de John Dickson Carr, quien convirtió las historias de “crímenes imposibles” en un arte, sino también con los misterios atmosféricos y retorcidos de Pierre Boileau. y Thomas Narcejac, el dúo responsable de las novelas filmadas como Vértigo y Les Diaboliques. Qué triste que ni Hitchcock ni Cluzot hayan podido llevar al cine La mano derecha roja. Filmar una historia tan elaborada sería un desafío digno de esos maestros del suspense. (Martin Edwards)

Mi opinión: Para obtener un breve resumen de esta historia, me gustaría dirigirlo a Publishers Weekly aquí. Sin embargo, si aún no ha leído este libro, tal vez sea mejor comenzar a leerlo, sin más preámbulos. No obstante, puede ser interesante saber de antemano que no tiene capítulos y, por tanto, sería conveniente contar con tiempo suficiente para leerlo de una sentada. Aun así, estoy bastante seguro de que una vez que empiece a leerlo no podrá dejarlo. Tuve la suerte de leerlo entre Navidad y San Esteban sin distraerme. La lectura es bastante exigente y requiere la mayor atención posible, dado que la trama no sigue un patrón lineal y contiene algunos saltos en el tiempo.

El autor marca el tono de lo que nos espera desde las primeras líneas:

Hay una cosa de lo más importante, en todo el oscuro misterio de esta noche, y es cómo ese hombre feo, pequeño, de cabello castaño rojizo, ojos rojos, con la oreja desgarrada y con afilados dientes puntiagudos, con sus piernas retorcidas y su reducida estatura, y con todos los otros detalles extraordinarios sobre él, pudo haberse escapado y desaparecido completamente de la faz de la tierra después de matar a Inis St. Erme.

La historia, narrada en primera persona por el Dr. Henry N. Riddle, Jr., del St. John’s Medical y New York S. & P., comienza cuando intentaba poner en marcha su propio automóvil parado en un cruce en Swamp Road. A pesar de que hubo numerosos testigos que aseguraron haber visto pasar un automóvil, el Dr. Riddle aseguraba que no había visto pasar a nadie. Aunque, a decir verdad, no importa si vio pasar el coche del asesino. Otros lo habían visto, y para ellos no era invisible ni un fantasma.

En conclusión, me gustaría citar aquí las palabras de Brian Ransom en The Paris Review:  “Para cuando se completan las últimas páginas, abandonando de golpe la dejadez expositiva para ofrecer una serie de revelaciones que cambian completamente la historia, el lector es probable que se sienta como si hubieran sido llevados a dar un paseo (juego de palabras con tomar el pelo) en ese Cadillac. Pero vale la pena el desconcierto; los cálculos desesperados y la atención tenaz que presté a The Red Right Hand culminaron en la experiencia de lectura más agradable de mi año.”

Sin duda uno de los mejores libros, si no el mejor, que he leído este año. The Red Right Hand de Joel Townsley Rogers forma parte de The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, de Martin Edwards.

Sobre el autor: Joel Townsley Rogers (1896-1984) fue un escritor estadounidense que escribió ciencia ficción, aventuras aéreas, relatos de misterio y un puñado de novelas de misterio. Nacido en 1896 en Sedalia, Missouri, estudió en la Universidad de Harvard. Se unió al cuerpo aéreo de la marina y se convirtió en uno de sus primeros cientos de aviadores. Pasó por un entrenamiento en Hampton Roads, Virginia. La Gran Guerra parecía una aventura para los jóvenes de esa generación. Rogers estaba ansioso por ir al extranjero y, de hecho, se las arregló para estar en condiciones de hacerlo si no lo hubiera impedido el armisticio. En cambio, fue enviado a Pensacola como instructor de vuelo. Según una de sus cartas, los aviones en los que voló y enseñó a otros a volar eran pequeños biplanos con plataformas hechos de abeto y lino. Después de la guerra, hizo uso de sus experiencias y su víva imaginación para vender cuentos a las muchas revistas pulp que se vendían en las décadas de 1920 y 1930 por quince o veinte centavos. Su novela más famosa es The Red Right Hand, que se publicó por primera vez en 1945 y fue adaptada de una novela corta publicada en New Detective. El libro se vendió bastante bien y fue reeditado varias veces en formato de bolsillo. Además de ese libro, Rogers publicó cientos de cuentos y otras tres novelas que no tuvieron tanto éxito: Once in a Red Moon (1923), Lady With the Dice (1946) y The Stopped Clock (1958, reeditada como Never Leave My Bed en 1963). Cada uno de sus últimos tres libros fue una versión ampliada de un relato breve. Al final de su vida, estaba trabajando en otra novela, pero hasta ahora no ha visto la luz del día. Joel Townsley Rogers murió en Washington, DC en 1984. The Red Right Hand está considerada la obra maestra de Rogers, y con razón. Es una clásica historia de terror contada en primera persona y ha sido reimpresa varias veces. Cualquiera que esté interesado en revivir algo del suspense y el terror que escribieron los grandes maestros de la ficción criminal, como Cornell Woolrich, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler y John Dickson Carr, debe leer The Red Right Hand. Es bastante fácil de encontrar. The Red Right Hand ha sido reeditada este año por American Mystery Classics tanto en tapa dura y rústica como en formato de libro electrónico. (Fuente: compilación basada en Wikipedia y otras fuentes)

La obra maestra del policial “noir”

My Book Notes: The Murders near Mapleton, 1929 (Bathurst Mysteries Book # 4) by Brian Flynn

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Dean Street Press, 2019. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1168 KB. Print Length: 200 pages. ASIN: B07XL51J4T. eISBN: 978 1 913054 42 7. First published in 1929 by John Hamilton. This new edition includes an introduction by crime fiction historian Steve Barge.

51yxmyfYP9LBook Description: “This is not suicide, gentlemen. This is murder! Cold-blooded murder! The sooner we get the police here and find Sir Eustace Vernon, the better!”. Christmas Eve at Vernon House is in full swing. Sir Eustace’s nearest and dearest, and the great and the good of Mapleton, are all there. But the season of comfort and joy doesn’t run true to form. Before the night is out, Sir Eustace has disappeared and his butler, Purvis, lies dead, poisoned, with a threatening message in his pocket. Or is it her pocket? That same evening, Police Commissioner Sir Austin Kemble and investigator Anthony Bathurst are out for a drive. They come across an abandoned car at a railway crossing, and find a body – Sir Eustace Vernon, plus two extraordinary additions. One, a bullet hole in the back of his head. Two, a red bon-bon in his pocket with a threatening message attached.

(Incidentally, a bon-bon was the name given to Christmas crackers at that time)

My Take: One Christmas Eve, at his home in Vernon House, Sir Eustace Vernon is celebrating a dinner party. Among the guests are Father Jewell, the priest of the Roman Catholic Church in Mapleton; Mr and Mrs Venables, the Mayor and Mayoress of Mapleton; Doctor Lionel Carrington, a local doctor; and Major Prendergast together with his wife. They are what could be termed the ‘local people’. The rest of the guests are Mr and Mrs Morris Trentham, London friends of Sir Eustace; and Mr Terence Desmond, a friend of Mis Ashley, Sir Eustace’s niece. Shortly after dinner, Sir Eustace excuses himself for having to leave unexpectedly to attend a matter beyond his control. Later on, Doctor Carrington would declare ‘that he was absolutely certain at that particular moment of the grim presence of Tragedy.’

It then follows a set of extraordinary events. First it is a chilling scream coming from Sir Eustace’s study where Hammond, one of the maids, has fainted. Then comes the discovery of a sort of suicide note handwritten by Sir Eustace himself which does not bode well. And, while a search-party is taken shape to find Sir Eustace, a scream of horror is heard again coming from the servant’s quarters. Another maid has just found the lifeless body of Purvis, the butler, seated in a chair. Immediately, Doctor Carrington instructs Terence Desmond to phone the local police to investigate the somewhat peculiar circumstances of Purvis’ death. The most curious aspect of this case is that the victim is holding the red wrapper of a bon-bon with a note-paper that read: ‘One hour to live: You pay your debt –to-night!’ Surprises will not end there and, upon the arrival of Inspector Craig, it is discovered that Purvis was actually a woman, something that all those present ensure they did not know.

On top of this all, Inspector Craig receives a phone call at Vernon House informing him that Sir Eustace Vernon’s body has been found on the railway line a few yard from Dyke’s Crossing. He must have driven straight there and thrown himself under a passing train. But what puzzles him most is the identity of his informant–it’s no less a person than Sir Austin Kemble–the Commissioner of Police. It’s clearly going to be a case for Scotland Yard.

What readers are still unaware of is that Sir Eustace was already dead when he was run over by the train, that he carried in his pocket a red wrapper of a bon-bon with the same threatened than the one found on Purvis and that Anthony Bathurst was accompanying Sir Austin Kemble when they found Sir Eustace’s body.

The Murders near Mapleton is the fourth book in the Bathurst Mystery series published by Dean Street Press. A series that, if I understand correctly can be read in no particular order. It is also the third book in the series that I have read and, why not say it, I’ve enjoyed. Although, it is true, I’ve followed Dr Puzzle’s recommendation that can be found below. The story, as can be seen in the summary, is complex enough for keeping the reader interested on the plot development, a plot that has also enough twists and turns to increase the intrigue. Eventually, everything will be solved in a satisfactory manner even though I was left with the doubt if the writer has play fair all the time. In any case it is quite an entertaining book to read, and quite appropriate for this time of the year. It goes without saying I look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series and, in particular, those included among Puzzle Doctor’s Top Ten Brian Flynn Titles.

The Murders near Mapleton has been reviewed, among others, at The Passing Tramp, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Beneath the Stains of Time, Cross-Examining Crime, Bedford Bookshelf, Mysteries Ahoy!  and The Grandest Game in the World.

About the Author: Brian Flynn was born in 1885 in Leyton, Essex. He won a scholarship to the City Of London School, and while he went into the civil service (ranking fourth in the whole country on the entrance examination) rather than go to university, the classical education that he received there clearly stayed with him. Protracted bouts of rheumatic fever prevented him fighting in the Great War, but instead he served as a Special Constable on the Home Front. Flynn worked for the local government while teaching “Accountancy, Languages, Maths and Elocution to men, women, boys and girls” in the evenings, and acting as part of the Trevelyan Players in his spare time. It was a seaside family holiday that inspired him to turn his hand to writing in the mid-twenties. Finding most mystery novels of the time “mediocre in the extreme”, he decided to compose his own. Edith, the author’s wife, encouraged its completion, and after a protracted period finding a publisher, it was eventually released in 1927 by John Hamilton in the UK and Macrae Smith in the U.S. as The Billiard-Room Mystery. The author died in 1958. In all, he wrote and published 57 mysteries, the vast majority featuring the super-sleuth Anthony Bathurst. (Source:  Steve Barge’s Introduction and Dean Street Press).

The first twenty books in the series have been published by Dean Street Press – so far…: The Billiard Room Mystery (1927), The Case Of The Black Twenty-two (1928), The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye (1928), The Murders near Mapleton (1929), The Five Red Fingers (1929), Invisible Death (1929), The Creeping Jenny Mystery (1929), Murder en Route (1930), The Orange Axe (1931), The Triple Bite (1931), The Padded Door (1932), The Edge Of Terror (1932), The Spiked Lion (1933), The League Of Matthias (1934), The Horn (1934), The Case Of The Purple Calf aka The Ladder of Death (1934), The Sussex Cuckoo (1935), The Fortescue Candle (1936), Fear And Trembling aka The Somerset Murder (1936), Tread Softly (1937).

Puzzle Doctor’s Top Ten Brian Flynn Titles – so far…: Tread Softly (Book 20); The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye (Book 3); The Creeping Jenny Mystery (Book 7); The Horn (Book 15); The Padded Door (Book 11); Murder En Route (Book 8);
Fear and Trembling
(Book 19); The Murders Near Mapleton (Book 4); The Fortescue Candle (Book 18); and The Edge of Terror (Book 12).

Dean Street Press publicity page

Brian Flynn at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

The Murders near Mapleton, de Brian Flynn

Descripción del libro: “Esto no es un suicidio, señores. ¡Esto es un asesinato! ¡Un asesinato a sangre fría! ¡Cuanto antes tengamos a la policía aquí y encontremos a Sir Eustace Vernon, mejor!”. La Nochebuena en Vernon House está en pleno apogeo. Los más cercanos y queridos de Sir Eustace, y la flor y nata de Mapleton, se encuentran todos allí. Pero la temporada de consuelo y alegría no se comporta como debería. Antes de que termine la noche, Sir Eustace ha desaparecido y su mayordomo, Purvis, yace muerto, envenenado, con un mensaje amenazante en el bolsillo. ¿O llace muerta? Esa misma noche, el Jefe de la Policía Sir Austin Kemble y el investigador Anthony Bathurst salieron a dar una vuelta. Se encuentran con un automóvil abandonado en un cruce ferroviario y encuentran un cuerpo: Sir Eustace Vernon, además de dos novedades singulares. Una, un agujero de bala en la parte posterior de la cabeza. Dos, un bon-bon rojo en el bolsillo con un mensaje amenazador.

(Por cierto, un bon-bon era el nombre que se le daba a las galletas navideñas en ese momento)

Mi opinión: Una Nochebuena, en su casa de Vernon House, Sir Eustace Vernon está celebrando una cena. Entre los invitados se encuentran el padre Jewell, sacerdote de la Iglesia Católica Romana de Mapleton; el Sr. y  la Sra. Venables, alcalde y alcaldesa de Mapleton; El doctor Lionel Carrington, el médico de la localidadl; y el Mayor Prendergast junto con su esposa. Son lo que podría denominarse “los personajes de la localidad”. El resto de invitados son el Sr. y la Sra. Morris Trentham, amigos londinenses de Sir Eustace; y el señor Terence Desmond, amigo de Mis Ashley, la sobrina de sir Eustace. Poco después de la cena, Sir Eustace se disculpa por tener que irse inesperadamente para atender un asunto que escapa a su control. Más tarde, el doctor Carrington declararía “que estaba absolutamente seguro en ese momento particular de la sombría presencia de una tragedia.”

Luego sigue una serie de sucesos extraordinarios. Primero es un grito escalofriante procedente del estudio de sir Eustace, donde Hammond, una de las doncellas, se ha desmayado. Luego viene el descubrimiento de una especie de nota de suicidio escrita a mano por el propio Sir Eustace que no augura nada bueno. Y, mientras se forma un grupo de búsqueda para encontrar a Sir Eustace, se escucha de nuevo un grito de horror procedente de las habitaciones de los sirvientes. Otra criada acaba de encontrar el cuerpo sin vida de Purvis, el mayordomo, sentado en una silla. Inmediatamente, el doctor Carrington le indica a Terence Desmond que llame a la policía local para investigar las circunstancias un tanto peculiares de la muerte de Purvis. Lo más curioso de este caso es que la víctima sostiene el envoltorio rojo de un bon-bon con un papel de notas que dice: ‘Una hora de vida: ¡paga tu deuda esta noche!’ Las sorpresas no terminan ahí. y, a la llegada del inspector Craig, se descubre que Purvis era en realidad una mujer, algo que todos los presentes aseguran desconocer.

Además de todo esto, el inspector Craig recibe una llamada telefónica en Vernon House informándole que el cuerpo de Sir Eustace Vernon ha sido encontrado en la vía del tren a pocos metros de Dyke’s Crossing. Debió haber conducido directamente allí y arrojarse debajo de un tren que pasaba. Pero lo que más lo desconcierta es la identidad de su informante, no es otro que Sir Austin Kemble en persona, el Jefe Superior de la Policía. Claramente será un caso para Scotland Yard.

Lo que aún desconocen los lectores es que Sir Eustace ya estaba muerto cuando fue arrollado por el tren, que llevaba en el bolsillo un envoltorio rojo de un bon-bon con la misma amenaza que la encontrada en Purvis y que Anthony Bathurst acompañaba a Sir Austin Kemble cuando encontraron el cuerpo de Sir Eustace.

Los asesinatos cerca de Mapleton es el cuarto libro de la serie de misterios de Bathurst publicada por Dean Street Press. Una serie que, si entiendo correctamente, se puede leer sin ningún orden en particular. También es el tercer libro de la serie que he leído y, por qué no decirlo, lo he disfrutado. Aunque, es cierto, he seguido la recomendación del Dr. Puzzle que se puede encontrar a continuación. La historia, como se puede ver en el resumen, es lo suficientemente compleja como para mantener al lector interesado en el desarrollo de la trama, una trama que también tiene suficientes giros y vueltas para aumentar la intriga. Eventualmente, todo se resolverá de manera satisfactoria, aunque me quedé con la duda de si el escritor ha jugado limpio en todo momento. En cualquier caso, es un libro bastante entretenido de leer, y bastante apropiado para esta época del año. No hace falta decir que espero leer el resto de los libros de la serie y, en particular, los incluidos entre los diez mejores títulos de Brian Flynn según Puzzle Doctor.

Sobre el autor: Brian Flynn nació en 1885 en Leyton, Essex. Obtuvo una beca para la City Of London School, aunque ingresó en el cuerpo de funcionarios civiles del Estado (ocupando el cuarto lugar de todo el país en el examen de ingreso) en lugar de ir a la universidad, la educación clásica que recibió allí claramente le acompañaron siempre. Episodios prolongados de fiebre reumática le impidieron participar activamente en la Primera Guerra Mundial, pero en cambio sirvió como agente especial de la policía en la retaguardia mientras enseñaba “contabilidad, idiomas, matemáticas y expresión oral a hombres, mujeres, niños y niñas” por las tardes, y actuaba formando parte de los Actores de Trevelyan en su tiempo libre. Fueron unas vacaciones familiares junto al mar las que le inspiraron a dedicarse a escribir a mediados de los años veinte. Al encontrar que la mayoría de las novelas de misterio de la época eran “extremadamente mediocres”, se decidió a escribir la suya propia. Edith, su mujer, le animó a terminarla, y tras un período prolongado buscando editor, John Hamilton en el Reino Unido y Macrae Smith en los Estados Unidos la publicaron en el 1927 como The Billiard-Room Mystery. Brian Flynn murió en 1958. En total, escribió y publicó 57 misterios, la gran mayoría protagonizados por el genial detective Anthony Bathurst. (Fuente: Introducción de Steve Barge y Dean Street Press).

Los primeros veinte libros de la serie han sido publicados por Dean Street Press, hasta ahora…: The Billiard Room Mystery (1927), The Case Of The Black Twenty-two (1928), The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye (1928), The Murders near Mapleton (1929), The Five Red Fingers (1929), Invisible Death (1929), The Creeping Jenny Mystery (1929), Murder en Route (1930), The Orange Axe (1931), The Triple Bite (1931), The Padded Door (1932), The Edge Of Terror (1932), The Spiked Lion (1933), The League Of Matthias (1934), The Horn (1934), The Case Of The Purple Calf aka The Ladder of Death (1934), The Sussex Cuckoo (1935), The Fortescue Candle (1936), Fear And Trembling aka The Somerset Murder (1936), Tread Softly (1937).

Steve Barge aka The Puzzle Doctor ha seleccionado de mejor a menor sus diez más recomendados: Tread Softly (Book 20); The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye (Book 3); The Creeping Jenny Mystery (Book 7); The Horn (Book 15); The Padded Door (Book 11); Murder En Route (Book 8); Fear and Trembling (Book 19); The Murders Near Mapleton (Book 4); The Fortescue Candle (Book 18); y The Edge of Terror (Book 12).