Friday, 11 March 2016
Forgotten Book - Mystery of Mr Jessop
E.R. Punshon was a strangely variable author. I find his very inconsistency rather intriguing, and that's partly why I've featured him several times in this blog, as well as in The Golden Age of Murder. He could, and often did, write well, although he was also apt to be wordy, and pace wasn't his strongest point. His books display a sharp sense of humour as well as providing quite a few worthwhile insights into different aspects of British society of the time. He could plot with a degree of ingenuity, and - on occasion - his characterisation could be incisive.
Dorothy L. Sayers was a fan, and she was not easily pleased. Today's Forgotten Book, Mystery of Mr Jessop, first published in 1937 and now reissued in Dean Street Press's welcome series of classic reprints, was enjoyed by P.G. Wodehouse, who was a keen reader of detective stories and friendly with Christie and Anthony Berkeley, Given all Punshon's virtues, then, it's not surprising that he was elected to the Detection Club, of which he proved to be an affable and popular member.
Mystery of Mr Jessop begins well, but slows after the first hundred pages. A partner in a jewellery firm has been murdered, a diamond necklace has gone missing, and a duke and duchess and the dodgy Cut and Come Again Club are mixed up in it all. At one point, Sergeant Bobby Owen makes a list of questions and observations about the case. There are more than forty questions, which illustrates Punshon's fondness for complication, and, perhaps, over-complication..
Dean Street Press are republishing a great many of the Bobby Owen books - some of which have long been scarce - and this initiative gives readers the opportunity to see just what an interesting writer he was. I would not, myself, rate this one too highly, but Bobby is on good form in books such as Information Received, Death of a Beauty Queen, and Diabolic Candelabra . And there's another title, recently published by Dean Street Press, which has some fascinating features and which I'll be covering here before long.