The Case Of The Black Twenty-Two by Brian Flynn

Black 22Peter Daventry, a young lawyer, receives instructions from a rich client to purchase three valuable artefacts that once belonged to Mary Stuart herself. It’s an odd request, with no limit on the money to be paid at the auction. It seems that the client simply must have these added to his already impressive collection. But…

The day after Daventry inspects the items, they are stolen from the auction house and a security guard is found dead, with his head bashed in. The next morning, Daventry and his colleagues are startled to discover that at roughly the same time, the client, miles away at his country house, was also murdered – he was found that morning, locked in his study (from the inside, obviously), also with his head bashed in. Faced with such a dilemma,  the only thing that can be done – call for Anthony Bathurst!

I’ve already written about the physical book itself – I’d post some pictures of the wartime adverts but it was practically falling apart as I read it and I’m trying to touch it as little as possible now. But John Norris of Pretty Sinister Books has some other Cherry Tree Books, and to quote his comment – “I have several of them and they are all 95 pages long. I have a feeling that almost all of them are abridged. It’s seems far too coincidental to be able to print each and every book at exactly 95 pages no matter how much you reduce the font. I’m sure there was some cutting.”  Add that to Santosh’s detective work with the borrowable copy from the Internet Archive – you’ll have to join a queue apparently – and this looks like it is an abridged copy. It’s an economy of wartime, I guess, and makes more sense than the other techniques, like miniscule print (Slippery Ann) or tissue thin paper (my copy of Too Many Suspects aka Vegetable Duck).

Oh, the book. It’s a solid enough detective story, although not as fun as The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye. I really enjoyed that one, but this is a little more prosaic. The locked room is a classic (as in you’ve seen it before – I suppose this might have been less well-known when written) and, more importantly, there is absolutely no reason to do make the crime scene a locked room. The only thing it really achieves is to help Bathurst solve the mystery.

As for the mysterious Black Twenty-Two? Well, I can’t say what that is, as it’s important to the end of the story, but thankfully, it’s isn’t something horribly racist – you never know… But it does come a bit out of nowhere…

Would the unabridged version have been better? Probably – some characters and ideas get a fairly short shrift and might have been developed more in the full novel. Still, despite not breaking any new ground, it’s a decent enough read that sits well as a classic detective story alongside the middle tier writers of the time. I wouldn’t break the bank to get a copy, but it’s Well Worth A Look.

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2 comments

  1. […] I’m hopeful that bringing obscure books to the public attention might inspire the reprint publishers to consider looking into the catalogue to reprint them for the masses. There’s a decent amount of output from Flynn and so far for me, there have been two excellent reads – The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye and Reverse The Charges – and one solid one – The Case Of The Black Twenty-Two. […]

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