Friday, 3 May 2013

Forgotten Book: Corpse Guards Parade

Corpse Guards Parade, my Forgotten Book for today, is a 1929 novel from the pen of Milward Kennedy. As the groan-worthy title suggests, it's fairly light-hearted in style, but it does offer a genuine detective puzzle,. My copy is a second impression, published in what Victor Gollancz called the "Prime Ministers' Detective Library". I'm really not sure what that term is meant to signify, though as I understand it, Stanley Baldwin was a fan of detective stories.But then, Gollancz was no fan of Stanley Baldwin, so it's a rather baffling marketing ploy.

One thing is for sure, a modern publisher would be unlikely to regard a link with politicians as a selling point for detective fiction, except in so far as quite a few of our elected representatives seem to finish up going to prison. Anyway, Gollancz was just starting up in 1929, and he must have been quite pleased to recruit Milward Kennedy, at that time a rising star of the genre to his list.

This book reunites Inspector Cornford and John Merriman, two characters who earlier appeared in The Corpse on the Mat. Cornford likes his food, and is quite a good-natured soul, although not perhaps the sharpest of sleuths. Merriman has recently married Joan, who is perhaps a smarter detective than either of them. In this story, Merriman stumbles across a corpse one foggy night on Horse Guards Parade. It seems to be the body of Henry Dill, recently returned from South America, but before long uncertainty creeps in as to the deceased's identity.

There are endless complications, but the fact that there are so few key characters means that it is not terribly difficult to identify the likely culprit, although his precise m.o. is less easy to figure out. I read this one quickly, and it's a pretty straightforward piece of work from an author who was still learning his trade at this point. But Kennedy's lightness of touch means that it's an easy and pleasant read.


Jonathan said...

I just bought a copy on ebay. It turns out to be a very valuable book.

Martin Edwards said...

Hope you bagged a bargain and that you enjoy reading it.