Comes A Stranger by E R Punshon

Comes A StrangerThe newly-engaged Detective Sergeant Bobby Owen is visiting a friend of his fiancée, Olive Ferrars. That friend, Miss Kayne, is the owner of the legendary Kayne library, although it is run by others, due to the fact that she may have inherited it, but she’s a bit too female. Needless to say, the library isn’t her favourite thing in the world – although Bobby is a little more distracted by her claim that she once committed the perfect murder… Although seriously, why tell him? It’s almost as if she’s in a Golden Age mystery novel…

But before he can spend much time dwelling on that, there’s a body in the library – at least, someone claims to have seen one. But why were the shutters opened and where has the body gone? But before Bobby can spend any time on that one, there’s another body, this time in the woods, shot three times. The victim is Nat, Miss Kayne’s cousin, who has a hand in the library. But the killer’s work is not done yet…

Book 11 of the Bobby Owen mysteries, the first of the third tranche of five re-issued by Dean St Press, and Bobby’s personal life has moved on, even if his career hasn’t. But the style is the same as ever, although with perhaps a little more confidence. There is a complex plot at the heart of the tale which keeps the reader guessing until the end.

Its pacing is a little inconsistent. Bobby is, as ever, a thoughtful individual, prone to long discussions about the case with anyone who’ll listen, whereas the finale wouldn’t be out of place in an action movie.

I suppose the question here is how well clued the mystery is. There’s something in the motive that seemed to come out of nowhere, but Punshon does a good job of muddying the waters by making virtually every character being up to something or other. I guessed the killer, but it was a guess.

The Punshon books are a great example of Golden Age mysteries that were well-worth rediscovering. And at the moment, they’re all a bargain as ebooks, so well worth checking out. Recommended.

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8 comments

  1. I’m finding Punshon’s books quite entertaining too, Doc – I’ve read three so far (and my review of “Comes a Stranger” will be up next week). I think the bibliomystery aspects of this one are well done, too; that library comes across as pretty creepy – and I’ll admit that I often thought I saw where the story was going, only to be surprised by a twist. And that ending IS more of an action scene than we find in a lot of Golden Age novels.

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    • I think that word “quite” is important, Les. The books have a lot going for them but there’s a nebulous something that stops them being outright classics – at least the ones that I’ve read so far. But still a lot better than some of the other rediscovered classics out there.

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  2. I’ve read a couple of Punshon novels now and despite my best efforts I just can’t get on with them. I just end up bored, as there seems to be a lot of padding. That and I can’t get on with Bobby Owens.

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    • I’ll admit they’re not perfect, and Bobby could do with getting off his backside a bit more. I was a bit annoyed at the one character who repeatedly gets away with telling the police to basically sod off, just so that he can be considered a suspect.

      But overall, there’s more good here than not for me, although I’m still waiting to read one that I consider a classic.

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