Author: Jose Ignacio

Stanislas-André Steeman (1908 – 1970)

steeman_bioStanislas-André Steeman, who was born in Liège on 23 January 1908, was a French-speaking Belgian writer and illustrator. Few crime novel authors can pride themselves on seeing a dozen of their books turned into films. Henri-Georges Clouzot was the person who most successfully adapted his books, with “Le dernier des six (The Last One of the Six)” (adapted from Six hommes morts, (Six Dead Men) (1931), L’assassin habite au 21, (The Murderer Lives at Number 21) (1939) and Quai des orfèvres (Quay of the Goldsmiths) (based on the book Légitime défense, (Legitimate Defense) (1942).

Between 1928 and 1933, Steeman worked as a journalist for the daily newspaper La Nation Belge. Together with Sintair, a pseudonym for Herman Sartini, a colleague from the newspaper, he wrote a pastiche of a crime novel, Le Mystère du zoo d’Anvers (The Antwerp Zoo Mystery) (1928). They went on to write four more novels together, after which Sintair stopped writing while Steeman continued writing alone. In 1931, he was awarded the Prix du Roman d’Aventures (Adventure Novel Award) for Six Dead Men. This was the first novel to feature his hero, Wenceslas Vorobeïtchik, alias Monsieur Wens. The height of his career came in 1939 with the publication of The Murderer Lives at Number 21. It tells the story of a London serial killer whom the police cannot identify, although they suspect he is one of the lodgers at a family boarding house located at 21 Russell Square; unfortunately, each time a suspect is arrested a new crime is committed, sending the investigators back to square one. In the cinematic adaptation, the intrigue takes place in Paris, the boarding house is called Les Mimosas and located at 21 Avenue Junot in Montmartre and the protagonists have French names. In 1994, this novel was also turned into a cartoon, with a script by André-Paul Duchâteau and drawings by Xavier Musquera.

Adaptations of other works were released at the cinema in the 1950s and early 1960s, including Brelan d’as (Full House) by Henri Verneuil in 1952, which adapts part of the novel Six Dead Men, Dortoir des grandes (Inside a Girls’ Dormitory) by Henri Decoin, adapted from Dix-huit fantômes (Eighteen Ghosts) in 1953 and Que personne ne sorte (Nobody Leave) by Yvan Govar, adapted from Six Hommes à tuer (Six Men to Kill) in 1962. Three of the Liège novelist’s works have also been adapted for television: L’Ennemi sans Visage (The Faceless Enemy) by Teff Erhat, adapted from the novel of the same name, in 1970, Les Grands Détectives (The Great Detectives) by Jacques Nahum, adapted from Six Men to Kill, in 1975 and Le Charme brumeux du Crime (The Hazy Charm of the Crime) by Jacques Bourton, adapted from Le Trajet de la foudre (The Path of the Lightning), in 1994.

Incidentally, we should mention the fact that French critics nicknamed him the “Belgian Simenon”, forgetting that both authors came from the Fervent City – Liège.

Stanislas-André Steeman, who died in Menton on 15 December 1970 at the age of 62, was chosen as one of the One Hundred Walloons of the century by the Institut Jules Destrée in 1995. Furthermore, a centre in Chaudfontaine specialising in paraliterature has been named after him. (Source: Focus on Belgium)

Selected bibliography: Six hommes morts (1931), La Nuit du 12 au 13 (1931), Le Mannequin assassiné (1932), Les Atouts de Monsieur Wens (1932), L’Ennemi sans visage (1934), L’assassin habite au 21 (1939), Légitime Défense (1942), Crimes à vendre (1951), 18 Fantômes (1952), Six hommes à tuer (1956).

Stanislas-André Steeman was like Georges Simenon a French speaking Belgian born in Liège, who left school young and displayed a precocious talent for writing, working as a journalist before becoming renowned as a crime writer. However the similarities end there. Steeman’s novels place less emphasis on character and setting, and are more notable for their ingenuity. The puzzles are cleaver, and Steeman’s work displays a commitment to fair play, plotting in the Golden Age manner, and a willingness to experiment mirroring that of his contemporaries in the Detection Club. (Source: Martin Edwards, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, 2017).

Steeman, while not a household name like Simenon and often berated by fans of the latter, is a capital name in the history of French-speaking mystery fiction. He was one of the earliest writers to take the form seriously, both formally (he was a notorious perfectionist, and entirely re-wrote some of his early books as they didn’t please him anymore) and conceptually. He was also one of the few pre-war mystery writers to try and come to terms with the new paradigms that emerged after WWII, and managed to stay relevant without abdicating any of its individuality and principles. Finally, he was one of the greatest and most inventive plotters of all times, ranking with Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr for the period before the war and Margaret Millar or Fredric Brown for the period that followed. It is a shame that he remains so little-known in English-speaking countries where only two of his books were translated. (Xavier Lechard, At The Villa Rose)

Further reading:

Regrettably, the oeuvre of Stanislas-André Steeman is almost unknown to English speaking readers. Only a couple of his books had been translated into English, if my information is correct, and both are hard to find. I was fortunate to get hold today at a pretty decent price of the Spanish translation of one of his best books,  L’assassin habite au 21 (1939) translated by Susana Prieto Mori and published by Siruela, 2019 under the title El asesino vive en el 21.

9782253011026-001-TFrom Wikipedia: L’assassin habite au 21 (The Murderer Lives at Number 21) is a detective story by Stanislas-André Steeman, published in 1939. Three years after its publication it was turned into a film under the same title directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. The novel evokes a mysterious serial killer who terrorizes London and signs his crimes leaving a business card in the name of “Mr. Smith”. Commissioner Strickland, in charge of the case, conducts the investigation that quickly leads him to a boarding house at 21 Russell Square, where the culprit is believed to be hiding. He will not cease to unmask him among the residents, but each time one of the residents is arrested, a new murder is committed, thus returning the investigation back to square one.

Synopsis:
Seven victims in two and a half months, seven shattered skulls. And the assassin signed all of his murders by leaving a card on the spot: his name is Smith … Smith … The London police are on the teeth, and the thousands of Smiths in the capital are going through difficult times. Until the day when a fortuitous track leads the Yard near Russel Square. This is where the assassin would live, on the 21st. But which of all the weirdos – stranger and more picturesque than each other – who populate the Victoria pension could well be Mr. Smith? A true police masterpiece, The assassin lives at 21 will inspire Henri-Georges Clouzot, whose film remains in all memories. (Source: Livre de Poche)

The Murderer Lives at Number 21 has been reviewed by Pietro De Palma at Death Can Read. El-asesino-vive-en-el-21-i1n18009346

Sinopsis: En el neblinoso Londres de los años treinta, un asesino en serie tiene aterrorizada a la capital. Tras matar a sus víctimas de un golpe en la cabeza, les roba y deja junto a ellas una nota con la más anodina de las firmas: «Mr. Smith». Cuando, tras el último ataque, un testigo ve al criminal entrar en una pensión del número 21 de Russel Square, Scotland Yard ;con el superintendente Strickland al frente del caso; pondrá bajo vigilancia a sus huéspedes: la viuda Hobson, dueña del establecimiento; el señor Collins, vendedor a domicilio de radios; el mayor Fairchild, retirado tras haber servido en las Colonias; la señorita Holland, amante de los gatos… Pero pese a haber estrechado tanto el cerco, descubrir entre todos la verdadera identidad de Mr. Smith no resultará sencillo en absoluto… El asesino vive en el 21; publicada originalmente en 1939 y llevada al cine tres años después por Henri-Georges Clouzot; es la obra maestra de su autor y una de las más brillantes aportaciones continentales a la novela detectivesca clásica.

My Book Notes: Maigret and the Nahour Case, 1966 (Inspector Maigret #65) by Georges Simenon (tr. William Hobson)

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Penguin Classics, 2019. Format; Kindle Edition. File Size: 3170 KB. Print Length: 165 pages. ASIN: B07GRC3M66. ISBN: 978-0-241-30416-7. A pre-original version was published in the daily Le Figaro from 22 November to 23 December 1966 (27 episodes). First published in French as Maigret et l’affaire Nahour by Presses de la Cité in December 1966. The story was written between February 2 and 8, 1966 in Épalinges (Canton of Vaud), Switzerland. The first UK edition came out as Maigret and the Nahour Case in 1967, the first American edition was published as Maigret and the Nahour Case in 1982. The translator, in both cases, was Alastair Hamilton. This translation by William Hobson was first published in 2019.

imageOpening sentence: ‘Il se débattait, acculé à se défendre puisqu’on l’empoignait traîtreusement par l’épaule. Il tenta même de frapper du poing, avec l’humiliante sensation que son bras ne lui obéissait pas et restait mou, comme ankylosé. – Qui est-ce ? cria-t-il en se rendant vaguement compte que cette question n’était pas tout à fait adéquate. Émit-il réellement un son ? – Jules !… Le téléphone…’

‘He was struggling, forced to defend himself because someone had unexpectedly grabbed hold of his shoulder. He even tried to throw a punch and had the humiliating feeling that his arm wasn’t responding but just lay limp at his side as though paralysed.
‘Who’s that?’ he shouted, vaguely aware that it wasn’t the right question exactly.
Had he even really made a sound?
‘Jules! The telephone . . . ‘

Book description: Maigret is called to the home of professional gambler, Felix Nahour, who has been found shot dead by his chambermaid. Maigret is shocked to recognise a photo of the man’s wife who becomes the main suspect. All signs point to her guilt but Maigret suspects there might be more to this complicated affair.

My take: The story unfolds one cold January night in Paris. The telephone awakes Maigret at 1.30 a.m. Dr Pardon urges him to come and see him at the earliest, what seems pretty strange since just a few hours before, Maigret and his wife were having dinner with the Pardons. Anyhow, he rushes to get to his friend’s house and finds him worried for something that has just happened to him. A moment ago, a young couple presented themselves unexpectedly to his house. The woman was displaying a gunshot injury of little significance on her back, but she doesn’t speak a word. The young man relates him such an absurd story that seems obviously invented, however, Dr Pardon agrees to treat her first and ask them afterwards. Once completed the cure, the couple takes advantage of a distraction by Dr Pardon, and disappears without leaving their personal details, as requires in such cases. Maigret reassures his friend that he has nothing to fear. The next morning, Felix Nahour, a professional gambler, is found murdered in his house by the cleaning lady. At his desk Maigret finds the portrait of his wife, Lina Nahour. Her description fits the one given by Dr Pardon of the young woman who came to his practise that very same night and she becomes the main suspect of her husband’s murder.

Maigret and the Nahour Case is one of the novels that belongs to the last part of the saga and I was pleasantly surprised. I had been under the impression that the quality of Maigret stories tended to decrease over the time, and this book has proved me I was wrong. Besides, it had been quite a while since I read my last Maigret  and I was eager to meet up with an old friend. In this instalment, Maigret has to deal with suspects and witnesses who, systematically, refuse to collaborate in the investigation, answering with monosyllables, not telling the truth, and somehow hiding all they know. Besides, Maigret finds himself misplaced, in a milieu with which he is not familiar and in which he doesn’t feel comfortable. Maigret and the Nahour Case, on account of its brevity, can be easily read in one sitting. Almost everything in it, the characterisation, the atmosphere, the pace, the plot and the dialogues, are very close to perfection. Maigret’s  humanity becomes evident when, at the end, he can’t hold to his promise when he must testify under oath during the trial. 

My rating: A (I loved it)

Maigret and the Nahour Case at Georges Simenon & Maigret International Dailyblog, Crime Review UK,

About the Author: Georges Simenon was born on 12 February 1903 in Liège, Belgium and died in 1989 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had lived for the latter part of his life. Between 1931 amd 1972 he published seventy-five novels and twenty-eight short stories featuring inspector Maigret.

Simenon always resisted identifying himself with his famous literary character, but acknowledged that they shared and important characteristic:

My motto, to the extent that I have one, has been noted often enough, and I’ve always conformed to it. It’s the one I’ve given to old Maigret, who resembles me in certain points . . . . ‘Understand and judge not.’

Penguin is publishing the entire series of Maigret novels. (Source: Penguin)

About the Translator: Former Contributing Editor at Granta Books, Will Hobson is a critic and translator from the French and German, whose translations include Viramma: A Pariah’s Life, Viramma (Verso); The Battle, Patrick Rambaud (Picador); Sans Moi, Marie Desplechin (Granta); Benares, Barlen Pyamootoo (Canongate); and The Dead Man in the Bunker, Martin Pollack (Faber). He writes for the Independent on Sunday, the Observer and Granta magazine, and translated Greenpeace’s presentation to the Pope before the Kyoto Summit into Latin. (Source: English Pen)

Penguin UK publicity page

Penguin US publicity page

Maigret and the Nahour Case 

Maigret of the Month: June, 2009

Tout Maigret

audible 

Georges Simenon’s Maigret Books by Helen MacLeod

Maigret y el caso Nahour, de Georges Simenon

Frase inicial: ‘Luchó, acorralado para defenderse ya que fue agarrado traicioneramente por el hombro. Incluso trató de golpear con su puño, con la humillante sensación de que su brazo no lo obedecía y permanecía flácido, como anquilosado. – Quién es ? gritó, dándose cuenta vagamente de que esta pregunta no era del todo adecuada. ¿Realmente emitió el un sonido? – ¡Jules! … El teléfono … ” (Mi traducción libre)

‘Estaba luchando, obligado a defenderse porque alguien lo había agarrado inesperadamente del hombro. Incluso trató de lanzar un puñetazo y tuvo la humillante sensación de que su brazo no estaba respondiendo, sino que simplemente yacía inerte a su lado como paralizado.
“¿Quién es?”, Gritó, vagamente consciente de que no era exactamente la pregunta correcta.
¿Realmente había emitido un sonido?
‘Jules! El telefono . . . ‘ (mi traducción libre)

Descripción del libro: Maigret acude a la casa de Felix Nahour, un jugador profesional, que fue encontrado muerto por su señora de la limpieza. Maigret se sorprende al reconocer una foto de la esposa de éste que se convierte en la principal sospechosa. Todas los indicios señalan su culpabilidad, pero Maigret sospecha que podría haber más en este complicado asunto.

Mi opinión: La historia se desarrolla una fría noche de enero en París. El teléfono despierta a Maigret a la 1.30 de la mañana. El Dr. Pardon le ruega que vaya a verle lo antes posible, lo que parece bastante extraño ya que solo unas horas atrás, Maigret y su esposa estaban cenando con los Pardon. De todos modos, se apresura a llegar a casa de su amigo y lo encuentra preocupado por algo que le acaba de suceder. Hace un momento, una joven pareja se presentó inesperadamente a su casa. La mujer mostraba una herida de bala de poca importancia en la espalda, pero no dice una palabra. El joven le cuenta una historia tan absurda que parece obviamente inventada, sin embargo, el Dr. Pardon acepta tratarla primero y preguntarles después. Una vez completada la cura, la pareja aprovecha una distracción del Dr. Pardon y desaparece sin dejar sus datos personales, como se requiere en tales casos. Maigret le asegura a su amigo que no tiene nada que temer. A la mañana siguiente, Felix Nahour, un jugador profesional, es encontrado asesinado en su casa por la señora de la limpieza. En su escritorio, Maigret encuentra el retrato de su esposa, Lina Nahour. Su descripción se ajusta a la que le dio el Dr. Pardon de la joven que acudió a su consulta esa misma noche y se convierte en la principal sospechosa del asesinato de su esposo.

Maigret y el caso Nahour es una de las novelas que pertenece a la última parte de la saga y me sorprendió gratamente. Tenía la impresión de que la calidad de las historias de Maigret tendía a disminuir con el tiempo, y este libro me ha demostrado que estaba equivocado. Además, había pasado bastante tiempo desde que leí mi último Maigret y estaba ansioso por encontrarme con un viejo amigo. En esta entrega, Maigret tiene que lidiar con sospechosos y testigos que, sistemáticamente, se niegan a colaborar en la investigación, respondiendo con monosílabos, sin decir la verdad, y de alguna manera ocultando todo lo que saben. Además, Maigret se encuentra fuera de lugar, en un entorno con el que no está familiarizado y en el que no se siente cómodo. Maigret y el caso Nahour, debido a su extensión, se pueden leer fácilmente de una sentada. Casi todo lo que contiene, la caracterización, la atmósfera, el ritmo, la trama y los diálogos, están muy cerca de la perfección. La humanidad de Maigret se hace evidente cuando, al final, no puede cumplir su promesa cuando debe testificar bajo juramento durante el juicio.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Georges Simenon nació el 12 de febrero de 1903 en Lieja, Bélgica y murió en 1989 en Lausana, Suiza, donde vivió la última parte de su vida. Entre 1931 y 1972 publicó setenta y cinco novelas y veintiocho relatos breves protagonizados por el inspector Maigret.

Simenon siempre se resistió a identificarse con su famoso personaje literario, pero reconoció que comparten una característica importante:

Mi lema, en el caso de que tenga uno, se ha destacado a menudo, y siempre me he adaptado a él. Es el que le di al viejo Maigret, que se parece a mí en ciertos aspectos. . . . “Comprende y no juzgues”.

Penguin está publicando toda la serie de las novelas de Maigret. (Fuente: Penguin)

Fergus Hume (1859–1932)

478315Fergusson Wright (Fergus) Hume (1859-1932), novelist, was born on 8 July 1859 in England, the second son of  James Hume. The family migrated to New Zealand where the father helped to found Ashburn Hall in Dunedin. Fergus was educated at Otago Boys’ High School, continued his literary and legal studies at the University of Otago and was articled to the attorney-general, Robert Stout. Soon after his admission to the Bar in 1885 Hume left for Melbourne where he became managing clerk for the solicitor, E. S. Raphael.

With ambitions as a playwright, Hume decided to write a novel to attract the attention of theatre managers. On the advice of a leading Melbourne bookseller he chose the style of Emile Gaboriau, then popular in translations, and produced The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, a ‘crude but ingenious’ tale in which he based his descriptions of low life on his knowledge of Little Bourke Street. Melbourne publishers ‘refused even to look at the manuscript on the ground that no Colonial could write anything worth reading’, so he determined to publish it himself and had 5000 copies printed by Kemp & Boyce in 1886. According to Hume this edition was sold out in three weeks and another was demanded. Some months later he sold his rights to a group of Australian speculators for £50. In London the great success of the Hansom Cab Publishing Co.’s edition in 1887 led to many more printings for which Hume received no further payment. Even his claim to authorship and original publication was publicly disputed, although he wrote a preface to a revised edition in 1896.

With the success of this first novel and the publication of another, Professor Brankel’s Secret (c.1886), Hume chose a literary career and in 1888 settled in England. There he published some 140 novels, most of them mystery stories set in England, America, Africa or on the Continent which he often visited. Only Madam Midas (1888) and its sequel Miss Mephistopheles (1890) were set in Australia, although fifteen others had colonial associations. His novels had clever plots but no great literary worth and none enjoyed the popularity of The Hansom Cab which played an important part in the growth of escapist literature.

Hume was reputed to be deeply religious and to avoid publicity but in his later years he lectured at young people’s clubs and debating societies. He died at Thundersley, Essex, on 12 July 1932. (Source: Australian Dictionary of Biography)

Several works by Hume can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

Further reading:

c79c6fbf9a6eb85837bdc58c5a39e285From Wikipedia: The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is a mystery fiction novel by Australian writer Fergus Hume. The book was first published in Australia in 1886. Set in Melbourne, the story focuses on the investigation of a homicide involving a body discovered in a hansom cab, as well as an exploration into the social class divide in the city. The book was successful in Australia, selling 100,000 copies in the first two print runs. It was then published in Britain and the United States, and went on to sell over half a million copies worldwide, outselling the first of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels, A Study in Scarlet (1887).

Reception of The Mystery of a Hansom Cab was positive; it received praise in works including A Companion to Crime Fiction, A History of the Book in Australia 1891–1945, and A History of Victoria, and was featured in the book Vintage Mystery and Detective Stories. A parody version was published in 1888, and film adaptations were produced in 1911, 1915, and 1925. The story was adapted into a BBC Radio serial in 1958, a stage play in 1990, a radio promotion in 1991, and a telemovie in 2012.

Product Description: In the dead of night on a lonely Melbourne street, a cabbie discovers to his horror that his drunken passenger has been murdered — poisoned with a chloroform-saturated handkerchief. The killer, his motive, and even the victim’s identity are unknown. The last person to be seen in the victim’s company cannot be identified and has vanished into the streets of the Australian metropolis. The solution lies within a labyrinth of dark secrets, missing papers, evasive witnesses, and a deadly game of blackmail.

Ever since the publication of this 1886 mystery, the two-wheeled carriage known as a hansom cab has been linked in the popular imagination with sinister affairs. The Mystery of a Hansom Cab was the unlikely first literary product of a young barrister’s clerk and quickly rose from its obscure initial publication to become one of the 19th century’s bestselling detective novels. Reputed to have inspired the creation of Sherlock Holmes, this ingeniously plotted, fast-paced, and engrossing tale remains a delight for lovers of Victorian mysteries.

Reprint of the Leisure Library, London, 1935 edition. (Source: Dover Books)

The Mystery of the Hansom Cab has been reviewed, among others, at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Past Offences, the crime segments, and Dfordoom’s Reviews.

My Book Notes: Murder en Route: An Anthony Bathurst Mystery, 1930 (Anthony Bathurst Mysteries Book # 8) by Brian Flynn

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Dean Street Press, 2019. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 985 KB. Print Length: 222 pages. ASIN: B07XK12DMT. eISBN: 978 1 913054 50 2. First published in 1930 by John Long. This new edition includes an introduction by crime fiction historian Steve Barge.

51iqX1y4GDLBook Description: “Education’s like murder. It will out.” Anthony Bathurst drops into a Glebeshire church and when it transpires that the vicar is acquainted with the medical examiner on a case of murder, Bathurst is hooked. He is soon on the trail of a most bizarre murderer. Who could have slain the slightly mysterious, yet quite unsuspicious, man on the top of a local bus? Bathurst assembles a band of helpers, with the reluctant help of Inspector Curgenven, to get to the bottom of a most perplexing case. And the vicar himself helps narrate the story of what is a seemingly impossible crime.

My Take: One cold and uncomfortable night in mid-November, the last motor-bus left the coastal town of Esting, destination Raybourne, where it was due to arrive in an hour and five minutes. The bus in question was a double-decker with its roof uncovered and there was one only passenger travelling on the upper deck, despite the bad weather. Since he got on, the bus did not pick up more passengers. No one else through out the entire journey climbed to the upper floor. At destination, the conductor waited on his platform for the passenger to descend. Realising he was not coming down, he went upstairs to see if he was asleep, but soon he felt that something odd had happened. The passenger in question was not asleep, he was dead. In fact, he had been murdered, something that seemed impossible since he had been all alone since he got on the bus. To make matters worse, the victim was not carrying any documents and cannot be identified. This will be one of the most baffling cases the local police will have to tackle, but fortunately they will count with the invaluable help of Anthony Bathurst, who happens to be in the area and becomes interested in the case.

Murder en Route is the eighth book in the Anthony Bathurst series, and the second I’ve read. Steve Barge, who blogs at In Search of the Classic Mystery, is, in a sense, responsible for sparking my interest in Brian Flynn and, from what I understand, Murder en Route is one of his best novels, among the ten currently available. For this reason I rushed to read it before others, and it has not disappointed me in the least. I was particularly interested in this novel since its plot revolves around an impossible crime and from what we can read in the Introduction, even though Flynn has dabbled in impossible crimes before  –The Case Of the Black Twenty-Two and Invisible Death– it is not a recurring theme in his work. A later book, The Spiked Lion, also deals with a locked room murder, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule. Steve Barge also highlights in his introduction that ‘this is the first time that Flynn has adopted a first person narrator since his opening book, an it is a slightly odd choice, given that the Reverend begins his narration in Chapter Four, he has to relate some incidents where he was not present, whereas other chapters on such events are written in the third person. . . . , slightly odd, but it does not distract from the tale which is, on a relative scale, one of Flynn’s better works.’ Ultimately, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Murder en Route. The story is well constructed, the author plays fair with the reader, and the readers count with a good number of clues at their disposal to anticipate the final outcome. Highly recommended.

My Rating: A (I loved it)

Murder en Route has been reviewed, among others, at Pretty Sinister Books, Beneath the Stains of Time, In Search of the Classic Mystery, Cross-Examining Crime, and Classic Mysteries.

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Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets, LLC

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 ten books in the series have been published by Dean Street Press: 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).

Dean Street Press publicity page

Brian Flynn at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

Murder En Route, de Brian Flynn

Descripción del libro:”La educación es como el asesinato. No se puede ocultar “. Anthony Bathurst entra en una iglesia de Glebeshire y cuando resulta que el vicario conoce al médico forense en un caso de asesinato, Bathurst se siente enganchado. Pronto sigue el rastro del asesino más extraño. ¿Quién podría haber matado al hombre algo misterioso, aunque bastante poco sospechoso, en el piso superior de un autobús local? Bathurst reúne a un grupo de ayudantes, con la ayuda reticente del Inspector Curgenven, para llegar al fondo de un caso sumamente desconcertante. Y el vicario mismo ayuda a contar la historia de lo que es un crimen aparentemente imposible.

Mi opinión: Una noche fría y desapacible a mediados de noviembre, el último autobús salió de la ciudad costera de Esting, destino Raybourne, donde debía llegar en una hora y cinco minutos. El autobús en cuestión era de dos pisos con el techo descubierto y solo llevaba un pasajero viajando en el piso superior, desafiando el mal tiempo. Desde que subió, el autobús no recogió más pasajeros y nadie más durante todo el viaje subió al piso de arriba. Al llegar a su destino, el revisor esperó en su plataforma a que el pasajero descendiera. Al darse cuenta de que no iba a bajar, subió para ver si se encontraba dormido, pero pronto sintió que algo extraño había sucedido. El pasajero en cuestión no estaba dormido, estaba muerto. De hecho, había sido asesinado, algo que parecía imposible, ya que había estado solo desde que se subió al autobús. Para empeorar las cosas, la víctima no llevaba ningún documento y no puede ser identificada. Este será uno de los casos más desconcertantes que la policía local tendrá que abordar, pero afortunadamente contarán con la invaluable ayuda de Anthony Bathurst, quien se encuentra en el área y se interesa por el caso.

Murder en Route es el octavo libro de la serie Anthony Bathurst, y el segundo que he leído. Steve Barge, que escribe en su blog In Search of the Classic Mystery, es, en cierto sentido, responsable de haber despertado mi interés por Brian Flynn y, por lo que entiendo, Murder en Route es una de sus mejores novelas, entre las diez disponibles actualmente. Por esta razón, me apresuré a leerla antes que otras, y no me ha decepcionado lo más mínimo. Estaba particularmente interesado en esta novela ya que su trama gira en torno a un crimen imposible y, por lo que podemos leer en la Introducción, a pesar de que Flynn ha hecho incusiones en crímenes imposibles antes –The Case Of the Black Twenty-Two and Invisible Death–  no es un tema recurrente en su obra. Un libro posterior, The Spiked Lion, también trata sobre un asesinato en una habitación cerrada, pero estas son las excepciones y no la regla. Steve Barge también destaca en su introducción que “esta es la primera vez que Flynn adopta un narrador en primera persona desde su primer libro, y es una elección un poco extraña, dado que el Reverendo comienza su narración en el Capítulo Cuarto, tiene que contar algunos incidentes donde no estuvo presente, mientras que otros capítulos sobre tales sucesos están escritos en tercera persona. . . . , un poco extraño, pero no distrae de la historia que es, en una escala relativa, una de las mejores obras de Flynn“. En definitiva, he disfrutado mucho leyendo Murder en Route. La historia está bien construida, el autor juega limpio con el lector y los lectores cuentan con una buena cantidad de pistas a su disposición para anticipar el resultado final. Muy recomendable.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

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).

Anna Katharine Green (1846–1935)

Anna-Katharine-GreenAnna Katharine Green (1846-1935) was an American poet and novelist. She was one of the first writers of detective fiction in America and distinguished herself by writing well plotted, legally accurate stories. Born in Brooklyn, New York, her early ambition was to write romantic verse, and she corresponded with Ralph Waldo Emerson. When her poetry failed to gain recognition, she produced her first and best known novel, The Leavenworth Case (1878). She became a bestselling author, eventually publishing about 40 books. She was in some ways a progressive woman for her time-succeeding in a genre dominated by male writers-but she did not approve of many of her feminist contemporaries, and she was opposed to women’s suffrage. Her other works include A Strange Disappearance (1880), The Affair Next Door (1897), The Circular Study (1902), The Filigree Ball (1903), The Millionaire Baby (1905), The House in the Mist (1905), The Woman in the Alcove (1906), The House of the Whispering Pines (1910), Initials Only (1912), and The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow (1917), (Source: Goodreads)

Many of Anna Katharine Green’s books are available electronically from Project Gutenberg.

Further reading:

md22757119478From Wikipedia: The Leavenworth Case (1878), subtitled A Lawyer’s Story, is an American detective novel and the first novel by Anna Katharine Green. Set in New York City, it concerns the murder of a retired merchant, Horatio Leavenworth, in his New York mansion. The popular novel introduced the detective Ebenezer Gryce, and was influential in the development of the detective novel. In her autobiography, Agatha Christie cited it as an influence on her own fiction.

Synopsis: Everett Raymond is a junior partner in the firm of Veeley, Carr & Raymond, attorneys and counselors at law. When Mr. Horatio Leavenworth, a very old and wealthy client, is found murdered, Everett finds himself entangled in the case. Leavenworth has been inexplicably shot while sitting at his own library table at night, all the doors in the house locked and untampered with. Suicide is quickly ruled out. Was the killer someone inside the house? Suspects abound: Thomas, the butler; Harwell, the private secretary and amanuensis to Mr. Leavenworth; and Mary and Eleanore Leavenworth, the two lady nieces, one of whom has been left out of her uncle’s will. Everett dives in as right-hand man to the inscrutable police detective Ebenezer Gryce, a brilliant investigator on the New York Metropolitan Police Force.

From a vanished servant to a secret marriage, from a shadowy mustached man to a forged confession, this swiftly plotted Victorian-era mystery, full of twists and turns and devastating cliffhangers, will keep you guessing until the very last page. Influential in the development of the modern suspense novel and a huge bestseller when it was first published, The Leavenworth Case is a groundbreaking tale not to be missed. (Source: Mysterious Press)

The Leavenworth Case has been reviewed, among others, at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Cross-Examining Crime, Mysteries Ahoy! My Reader’s Block, Vintage Pop Fictions, and the crime segments.