The Four Armourers by Francis Beeding

four-armourersJohn Baxter, official to the League of Nations, is meeting his old friend, Colonel Granby, in a café in Zaragoza (in Spain, for those geographically challenged readers). Soon, he finds himself pursued/in pursuit of a villainous hunchback and finds himself having to dispose of a dead body.

This is just a prelude to the adventure that Baxter and Granby find themselves in, up against The Four Armourers, in a race to… do something first and the fate of the world (possibly) hangs in the balance… To be honest, I can’t say much about it without spoiling things. Read on to find out why.

Francis Beeding was the pseudonym of a pair of writers, John Leslie Palmer and Hilary Aiden St George Saunders, who wrote between 1925 and 1946. It seems from what little I can tell that they wrote a combination of spy stories, presumably the Colonel Granby tales, and actual mysteries. Although at least one cover that I can find describes “a Colonel Granby mystery”. I loved Death Walks In Eastrepps, but this one – let’s just say that the subtle advertising on the cover – Sit Up With Beeding – for this book as a cure for insomnia isn’t too far off.

To be fair, it’s not a mystery, but an adventure story, sort of an early years James Bond caper, as Baxter and Granby bounce around early twentieth century Spain for some reason. And I have to say for some reason, as it takes about 60% of the page count before Granby tells Baxter what’s going on and then, in a teeth-grindingly irritating way, Baxter, the narrator, ignores passing that information on and tells us:

I feel, however, that my immediate business is to get on with the story; and if you read to the end of it, you will, perhaps, agree with me.

Interesting choice of the word “if” there, as I was in serious danger of putting this to one side. And I don’t agree with him because even by the end of the tale, there’s precious little information on the MacGuffin that’s been pushing the story forward. But I persevered, because there’s some fun dated language bouncing around at times – such as the lovely dancer in the Café Pelican who, apparently, “lashes the dons to frenzy”.

So, a disappointment after two strong #1930book entries for Crimes Of The Century. A shame, as I had high hopes for this one. But it’s not a mystery, just a spy adventure and that’s not my sort of thing at all. It seems that there a few Not really recommended, but if it’s your sort of thing, then there are fun bits and bobs hidden around the unsurprising plot.

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31 comments

  1. No, The 7 Sleepers is not a Granby series book. The 3 Fishers is also not of Granby series. All other books with numbers are of Granby series.
    Most of the Granby series have numbers but some do not have like Pretty Sinister (John Norris’s blog is named after this !)

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  2. In my opinion only 2 books of Francis Beeding are worth reading; The Norwich Victims 🙂 and Death Walks In Eastrepps.
    I didn’t particularly like House Of Dr. Edwardes. It is more a thriller than a mystery. However, Hitchcock made many changes and converted it into a brilliant mystery film Spellbound.

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      • I have fully read only 3 which I have mentioned above. I started 4 or 5 others but did not finish as I found them dull and not to my taste. Actually most of his books are spy thrillers/ adventures, not my cup of tea.
        Perhaps John Norris might like these books since he named his blog after a Granby novel !

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  3. My blog name comes not from the title of the Beeding book but from the phrase that Colonel Granby utters many a time in the series. “Pretty sinister, eh!” is his catch phrase. I liked it and it became the name of my bookselling website between 1999 and 2004 and later my blog. And yes, Sergio, I have a copy of that book. Two in fact: one with a DJ, one without.

    SIX PROUD WALKERS in addition to being Granby’s debut was the first Beeding book I read. I thoroughly enjoyed it as an example of the early globetrotting thriller of its day. He’s much better than Oppenheim, IMO, who often bores me.

    The Granby titles start in reverse order with SIX PROUD WALKERS (1928) and count down to ONE SANE MAN (1934). Then it goes back to eight with EIGHT CROOKED TRENCHES (1936) and continues in numerical order ending with THERE ARE THIRTEEN (1946), the last book the duo wrote together as “Francis Beeding”. My guess is that the two writers never planned on all those numbered titles and were forced to do it at the request of their publisher. Just the kind of gimmicky thing publishers loved back in the day.

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  4. The Granby series includes all numbers from 1 to 13 excluding 3 amd 7. The 3 Fishers and The 7 Sleepers do not feature Granby.
    Inspector Martin who appears in Norwich Victims also appears in No Fury (aka Murdered: One By One) and He Could Not Have Slipped. Inspector Wilkins who appearsc in Death Walks In Eastrepps also appears in Murder Intended. I am interested in reading the 3 novels (No Fury, He Could Not Have Slipped and Murder Intended) as these may be more to my taste, but unfortunately these are available only as used books at exorbitant costs.

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    • Curt Evans likes HE COULD NOT HAVE SLIPPED. Says its the best of Beeding’s pure detective novels. All my Beeding books are packed away in a box that I have no interest in dragging down and opening up. I have all three of those non-Granby books you list above. I’m hoping to read MURDER INTENDED (a fairly recent purchase and not in that tucked away box) and it’s been set aside for October.

      BTW, MURDER INTENDED is available via amazon.com in a Kindle edition. Can you buy from that site in India? Sometimes there are restrictions.

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