Friday, 8 January 2016

Forgotten Book - Case for Three Detectives

Time for another Forgotten Book from the magnificent (and massive) collection gathered together by the late Bob Adey. This time it's the first detective novel to appear under the name of Leo Bruce. Case for Three Detectives was published in 1936, and introduced a very appealing detective, Sergeant Beef, who proceeded to enjoy a career extending well into the Fifties.

My copy was once owned by Dennis Wheatley, the then famous thriller writer, who evidently had a formidable library, and it bears his bookplate, as well as a personal inscription from Bruce to Wheatley. The connections with Bob, Bruce, and Wheatley make this a favourite in  my own collection. 

Now to the story -is it any good? Yes, most definitely yes! It's a story with strong elements of parody, but it stands up very well to the test of time. I've written at some length, for CADS, about a slightly similar parodic novel, Gory Knight, by Margaret Rivers Larminie and Jane Langslow, but much as I enjoyed that book, Bruce's novel is clearly superior.

It's a locked room mystery, and the puzzle is a good one. So good that, although Beef is sent to investigate, his detective role is rather usurped by thinly disguised versions of Wimsey, Poirot, and Father Brown. The comedy is very nicely done, and the plot zig-zags around very pleasingly. I enjoyed it enormously. Leo Bruce, by the way, was a pseudonym for Rupert Croft-Crooke, a prolific writer who had an extremely interesting and colourful life. I look forward to writing about him again in future.  

8 comments:

JJ @ The Invisible Event said...

I absolutley love this book, Martin, it was such a joy to see the comedy and the mystery so brilliantly intertwined. Only really Kelley Roos have come close to mixing the two so liberally to such great success to my tastes, but I'm sure there are others out there I'm yet to discover (and, to be fair, Pamela Branch came pretty close with The Wooden Overcoat).

I'm a huge fan of Bruce's writing and the Beef books in particular. Really look forward to you featuring more about him in the coming months.

John said...

I love the name Amer Picon for Poirot. Such a perfect choice for that liqueur addicted Belgian.

There's another one like this by an American mystery writer Marion Mainwaring called Murder by Pastiche which I liked a lot. There are nine detectives in Mainwaring's book and they include Trajan Beare, Mallory King, Sir Jon Nappleby, Atlas Poireau, Fan Sliver.

Richard R. said...

A very enjoyable book, it was my introduction to both Sgt. Beef and Leo Bruce. I have read other novels featuring Beef, and also enjoy Bruce's Carolus Deene books.

Barry Ergang said...

I read this one--the only Bruce title I have read--many years ago. While I don't recall any of its crucial details (such as whodunit), I do recall enjoying it a great deal. That I don't recall whodunit is a good thing, since I may decide to reread it some day.

Jerry House said...

Thanks for reminding me of this one, Martin. I remember the book as a joyous romp.

Ron Smyth said...

An excellent book, by far the best by Bruce that I've read. I'm working my way through his although I've read only two of the Carolus Deene volumes. Beef is a much more interesting detective as far as I'm concerned. The multiple solutions to this one, each according to the style of the various detectives are absolutely brilliant parody.

Martin Edwards said...

Great comments, thanks to you all. John, I've had Murder in Pastiche a long time and shamefully not yet read it. But I will.

Arthur Robinson said...

This is an excellent detective story (except for a clue withheld from the reader) and very funny (triple-)parody. It’s by far the best of Leo Bruce’s books; I found his other books readable but usually not memorable (in fact I read one a few years ago and didn’t realize until the last chapter that I’d already read it--that would never happen with a Christie, Carr, etc.).