J.J. Connington was once well-regarded as an author of Golden Age detective fiction, and he was a member of the Detection Club from its early days, but his work had fallen far out of favour until the recent revival of interest in Golden Age fiction. He was among the more skilled plotsmiths of the twenties and thirties, and my Forgotten Book for today is one of the novels he wrote late in his career, The Counsellor, first published in 1939.
This is one of a pair of novels featuring Mark Brand, dubbed (and referred to relentlessly throughout the story as) "The Counsellor". He's a rich young man who has found an unexpected calling as a radio detective. Connington was trying something fresh here, and he was very much ahead of his time. It wasn't until many years later that the idea of a radio gumshoe really caught on, with that wonderful series Shoestring, starring Trevor Eve. I once read a Shoestring novelisation by the late Paul Ableman which like so many TV tie-ins was only so-so, but the scripts were sharp and engaging, and I was very sorry when Eve walked away from the show. (The second episode of the excellent Unforgotten last night provided a reminder of his compelling screen presence.)
Back to The Counsellor. He runs a slick operation in Oxford Street, with a loyal staff ready to deal with any query his listeners can throw at him. His fancy is caught by a letter from a chap who tells him about a young woman who has gone missing. Brand picks up clues as to the girl's destination, and goes haring up to Scotland after her. He only finds her missing car, and evidence that she has gone through a form of marriage with a young American.
The plot thickens from there, but I must say that I found the mystery only average by Connington's standards. Never mind.: I like the way he kept trying to do something different with the traditional detective story, and also his passionate commitment to "playing fair" with the reader. Brand's second case was a definite improvement on this one, with a stronger plot, and I'm rather sorry that the series didn't continue.