Friday, 13 July 2012

Forgotten Book - Mystery at Lynden Sands

The case of the Tichborne Claimant is a classic of impersonation and it has provided the inspiration for a host of crime stories, including today’s Forgotten Book, Mystery at Lynden Sands (1929) by J.J. Connington, a story which recreates the partnership of Sir Clinton Driffield and Squire Wendover first encountered in Murder in the Maze.

This is an enjoyable book, although I found it difficult not to be deterred by an excruciating first chapter in which a brother tediously reminds his sister of the family history, all of which she knew already, simply in order to explain the background to the reader. Including a simple family tree would have been a better option. It’s an example of how not to convey factual information in a novel.

But I was glad I persevered. This poor bit of writing aside, Connington does a very good job in creating one of his complicated fair-play murder mysteries. He makes excellent use of the seaside resort setting for purposes of the plot, although, typically, he provides diagrams of crime scenes rather than memorable descriptions. The Holmes-Watson relationship between Driffield and Wendover is nicely drawn, as are their dealings with the local cop, named Armadale (perhaps after the Wilkie Collins novel?)

One of the intriguing features of the Connington books is the sheer ruthlessness of Driffield. He is quite prepared to let a villain suffer in agony, yet in many ways he is decent and good-natured. His focus is, above all, on evidence, and this reflects Connington’s scientific training. He focuses on facts, like emotions. But despite this touch of coldness, Connington was definitely one of the more interesting writers of the Golden Age.

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