My Book Notes: The Body in the Silo, 1933 (Miles Bredon #3) by Ronald Knox


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The Murder Room, 2012. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 870 KB. Print Length: 318 Pages. ASIN: B0094IXYJI. ISBN: 978-1-4719-0044-0. First published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton in 1933, and later in the US as Settled Out of Court by E. P. Dutton & Co. in 1934.

hbg-title-9781471900440-9Synopsis: When private investigator Miles Bredon and his wife, Angela, arrive for a weekend at the Hallifords’ country house, they find themselves part of a singularly ill-assorted house party. Waking one morning to the news that one among their number has been found dead by the silo, Miles has no shortage of suspects. The entire party had spent the previous night haring around the country side in an ‘eloping’ game instigated by their hostess, and no one can fully account for their whereabouts. The arrival of Inspector Leyland from Scotland Yard, investigating a spate of apparent suicides of important people, adds another dimension to the mystery, and Miles finds himself wondering ‘whether the improbable ought to be told’.

My Take: The Body in the Silo, published in the US as Settled Out of Court, is a 1933 detective novel written by the Reverend Ronald Knox. Father Knox is probably best known today for having codified the rules for detective stories into a “decalogue”, the  Ten Commandments of Detective Fiction, in 1929. However, as Martin Edwards points out at The Golden Age of Murder (Collins Crime Club, 2016), “he [Knox] would have been amazed, as well as amused, to find so many commentators in later years taking his jokes at face value.” To add later that “Knox knew perfectly well that most of his ‘rules’ were ludicrously strict.” The story falls into the category of a country-house mystery, and it is the third in a series featuring Miles Bredon, a private investigator working for the Indescribable Insurance Company. Julian Symons in Bloody Murder (Penguin Books, 1974) wrote “Monsignor Ronald Knox (1888 – 1957) is the super-typical Farceur of the decade, one who never allowed into his half-dozen detective stories the faintest breath of seriousness to disturb the desperate facetiousness of his style. .… Knox was fascinated by the Holmensian apparatus of clues and deductions, as MacDonald was fascinated by methods of murder, and neither of them bothered much about concealing the identity of the easily-spotted villain.” This book is included in Martin Edwards’ The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (British Library, 2017), and this cheered me up to read it.

For the reasons set out in the first chapter of the novel, Miles Bredon and his wife Angela accept an invitation to spend a weekend at the Halliford’s country house, a couple whom they hardly know. Once there, they find themselves amidst an heterogeneous group of guests. Among them are Mr Tollard, a young writer whose reputation is mainly due to a dark incident of his past; Phyllis Morel, a modern young lady, friend of Mrs Halliford and a garage owner; the Arnolds, a couple of neighbours, distant relatives of Mr Halliford; John Carberry and his wife, a former business acquaintance of Mr Halliford in South Africa, where they both made their money, who have recently returned to England; and Cecil Worsley, an old friend of Mrs Halliford.

Cecil Worsley was one of those people who make England what she is in the world. They also make you wonder who in the world they are. Not more than a thousand people, probably, knew him by sight, but he was in the very middle of things. He counted among the people who counted; he influenced their opinions more than most departments in the Civil Service can, and much, much more than the electorate.

Mr Halliford is very proud of his new grain silo and loves showing it to his guests. Meanwhile Mrs Halliford, to entertain her guests, suggests to play an “eloping party”, a kind of game similar to a treasure-hunt, in which a couple, chose at random, plays the part of the “eloping” couple, without disclosing their identity, and the others guests chase them around the countryside in powerful motor cars. That night, everyone, except Cecil Worsley, find themselves participating in the game. But the following morning Cecil Worsley is found dead in the silo suffocated by the fumes originated by the stored cereal. It could have been an accident, a suicide or a murder. Nobody can confirm the whereabouts of the others the night before. But in the absence of a clear motive, the coroner brings in the verdict of accidental death. However, Bredon decides to investigate on his own account with the help of Inspector Leyland from Scotland Yard, who is found camping in the surroundings.

The Body in the Silo is a witty and rather entertaining novel. A cleverly crafted mystery puzzle. I enjoyed Father Knox’s sense of humour and, in my view, the story is well written. Knox plays fair with the reader and maybe for that reason the outcome ends up being quite predictable, but it does not disappoint.

The Body in the Silo has been reviewed, among others, at Reading 1900 – 1950, and at Promoting Crime Fiction,

2020

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, 1933)

6097

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. USA, 1934)

About the Author: Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (17 February 1888 – 24 August 1957) was a Roman Catholic priest, theologian, writer and a regular broadcaster for BBC Radio. Knox had attended Eton College and won several scholarships at Balliol College, Oxford. He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1912 and was appointed chaplain of Trinity College, Oxford, but he left in 1917 upon his conversion to Catholicism. In 1918 he was ordained a Catholic priest. Directed by his religious superiors, he singlehandedly re-translated the Latin Vulgate Bible into English, using Hebrew and Greek sources, beginning in 1936. He died on 24 August 1957 and his body was brought to Westminster Cathedral. Bishop Craven celebrated the requiem mass, at which Father Martin D’Arcy, a Jesuit, preached the panegyric. Knox was buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s Church, Mells. One of the founding members of the Detection Club, he wrote six detective novels as well as several short stories.

Father Knox Detective Novels: The Viaduct Murder (1925); The Three Taps (1927) – features Miles Bredon; The Footsteps at the Lock (1928) – features Miles Bredon; The Body in the Silo (1933) – features Miles Bredon; Still Dead (1934) – features Miles Bredon; Double Cross Purposes (1937) – features Miles Bredon.

Father Knox Short Stories
: “Solved by Inspection” (1931) – features Miles Bredon; “The Motive” (1937); “The Adventure of the First Class Carriage” (1947)

Father Knox Collaborative works by the Detection Club
: Behind the Screen (1930) (six contributors including Knox); The Floating Admiral (1931) (fourteen contributors including Knox); Six Against the Yard (1936) (six contributors including Knox)

Orion Publishing Group publicity page

Ronald Knox page at Golden Age of Detection Wiki 

Murder in the Family: Ronald Knox and Winifred Peck

Clerical Detectives: Miles Brendon

audible

Further reading: The Life of Right Reverend Ronald Knox by Evelyn Waugh (Penguin, 2012)

The Body in the Silo, de Ronald Knox

Sinopsis: Cuando el investigador privado Miles Bredon y su mujer, Angela, llegan a pasar un fin de semana en la casa de campo de los Hallifords, se encuentran formando parte de una fiesta casera particularmente heterrogénea. Al despertarse una mañana con la noticia de que uno entre ellos ha sido encontrado muerto en el silo, Miles no carece de sospechosos. Todo el grupo había pasado la noche anterior dando vueltas por el campo en un juego de ‘fuga’ instigado por su anfitriona, y nadie puede dar completa cuenta de su paradero. La llegada del inspector Leyland de Scotland Yard, que investiga una serie de aparentes suicidios de personas importantes, añade otra dimensión al misterio, y Miles se encuentra preguntándose “si hay necesidad de informar de lo improbable”.

Mi opinión: The Body in the Silo, publicada en los EE. UU. como Settled Out of Court, es una novela de detectives de 1933 escrita por el reverendo Ronald Knox. El padre Knox es probablemente más conocido hoy en día por haber codificado las reglas de las novelas de detectives en un “decálogo”, los Diez Mandamientos, en 1929. Sin embargo, como señala Martin Edwards en The Golden Age of Murder (Collins Crime Club, 2016 ), “Él [Knox] se habría sorprendido, además de divertido, al encontrar tantos comentaristas en los últimos años tomando sus bromas al pie de la letra“. Para agregar más tarde que “Knox sabía perfectamente bien que la mayoría de sus ‘reglas’ eran ridículamente estrictas“. La historia entra en la categoría de un misterio en una casa de campo, y es la tercera de una serie protagonizada por Miles Bredon, un investigador privado que trabaja para la Compañia de Seguros Indescribable. Julian Symons en Bloody Murder (Penguin Books, 1974) escribió “Monseñor Ronald Knox (1888 – 1957) es el Farceur súper típico de la década, uno que nunca permitió en su media docena de historias de detectives el más mínimo soplo de seriedad para perturbar la desesperada burla de su estilo … Knox estaba fascinado por el aparato holmensiano de pistas y deducciones, como MacDonald estaba fascinado por los métodos de asesinato, y ninguno de ellos se molestó mucho por ocultar la identidad de un villano fácil de identificar “. Este libro está incluido en The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books de Martin Edwards (Biblioteca Británica, 2017), y esto me animó a leerlo.

Por las razones expuestas en el primer capítulo de la novela, Miles Bredon y su esposa Angela aceptan una invitación para pasar un fin de semana en la casa de campo de los Halliford, una pareja a la que apenas conocen. Una vez allí, se encuentran en medio de un grupo heterogéneo de invitados. Entre ellos se encuentran el Sr. Tollard, un joven escritor cuya reputación se debe principalmente a un oscuro incidente de su pasado; Phyllis Morel, una joven moderna, amiga de la Sra. Halliford y dueña de un garaje; los Arnold, un par de vecinos, parientes lejanos del Sr. Halliford; John Carberry y su esposa, un antiguo conocido comercial del Sr. Halliford en Sudáfrica, donde ambos hicieron su dinero, que recientemente regresaron a Inglaterra; y Cecil Worsley, un viejo amigo de la señora Halliford.

Cecil Worsley era una de esas personas que hacen de Inglaterra lo que es en el mundo. También te hacen preguntarte quiénes son en el mundo. Probablemente no más de mil personas lo conocían de vista, pero estaba en medio de las cosas. Contaba entre las personas que contaban; influía en sus opiniones más que la mayoría de los departamentos de la administración pública, y mucho, mucho más que el electorado.

El Sr. Halliford está muy orgulloso de su nuevo silo de grano y le encanta mostrárselo a sus invitados. Mientras tanto, la Sra. Halliford, para entretener a sus invitados, sugiere jugar a una “fiesta de fuga”, una especie de juego similar a la búsqueda del tesoro, en el que una pareja, elegida al azar, hace el papel de la pareja que se da a la “fuga”, sin revelar su identidad, y los demás invitados los persiguen por el campo en potentes automóviles. Esa noche, todos, excepto Cecil Worsley, se encuentran participando en el juego. Pero a la mañana siguiente, Cecil Worsley es encontrado muerto en el silo asfixiado por los gases originados por el cereal almacenado. Pudo haber sido un accidente, un suicidio o un asesinato. Nadie puede confirmar el paradero de los demás la noche anterior. Pero en ausencia de un motivo claro, el juez instructor dicta el veredicto de muerte accidental. Sin embargo, Bredon decide investigar por su propia cuenta con la ayuda del inspector Leyland de Scotland Yard, quien se encuentra acampando en los alrededores.

The Body in the Silo es una novela ingeniosa y bastante entretenida. Un enigma inteligentemente elaborado. Disfruté del sentido del humor del padre Knox y, en mi opinión, la historia está bien escrita. Knox juega limpio con el lector y quizás por eso el resultado acaba siendo bastante predecible, pero no defrauda.

Acerca del autor: Monseñor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (17 de febrero de 1888 – 24 de agosto de 1957) fue un sacerdote católico, teólogo, escritor y locutor habitual de la BBC Radio. Knox se educó en Eton College y consiguió varias becas en el Balliol College, de Oxford. Fue ordenado sacerdote anglicano en 1912 y nombrado capellán del Trinity College, Oxford, pero lo dejó en 1917 tras su conversión al catolicismo. En 1918 fue ordenado sacerdote católico. Dirigido por sus superiores religiosos, tradujo sin ayuda la Biblia Vulgata Latina al inglés, utilizando fuentes hebreas y griegas, a partir de 1936. Murió el 24 de agosto de 1957 y su cuerpo fue llevado a la catedral de Westminster. El obispo Craven celebró la misa de réquiem, en la que el padre Martin D’Arcy, jesuita, predicó el panegírico. Knox fue enterrado en el cementerio de la iglesia de San Andrés, Mells. Uno de los miembros fundadores del Detention Club, escribió seis novelas y varios relatos policíacos.

Novelas policíacas: Viaduct Murder (Methuen & Co. 1925); The Three Taps (Methuen & Co. 1927); The Footsteps at the Lock (Methuen & Co. 1928); The Body in the Silo (Hodder & Stoughton, 1933); Still Dead (Hodder & Stoughton, 1924); Double Cross Purposes (Hodder & Stoughton, 1937).

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