DS Bobby Owen and Superintendent Ullyet are on the trail of a renowned fence, one who has always managed to keep his nose clean enough to stay out of prison, but dirty enough to remain on the police radar – not that radar was invented for another three years. But their latest entrapment scheme goes awry – as T.T. Mullins catches the police trying to catch him in possession of a diamond necklace belonging to a movie star that has been stolen from a local jewellers, gunshots are heard from within Mullins’ house. As the police reach the scene, they find a man (unsurprisingly called Mr Jessop, given the title) dying from a gunshot wound. The surprising thing is that Jessop is the jeweller who was earlier robbed. So what was he doing in Mullins’ house?
Bobby Owen finds himself investigating not just a murder but a theft as well. Is he looking for one villain or two?
This is the eighth Bobby Owen mystery from E R Punshon, as reissued by the wonderful Dean St Press who have released the back catalogue in its entirety now as ebooks. And this is a complex mystery with some timely (well, 1937-y) politics thrown in – this is another #1937book for Crimes of the Century by the way. But, I’ll be honest, it didn’t exactly grab me as much as the other Punshon’s that I’ve read.
And there’s a couple of reasons for that. First off, almost every character (of which there are quite a few) is up to something. Not that that’s a bad thing in a mystery, far from it, but for a long part of the book, there wasn’t a character, apart from Bobby, that I felt that I could sympathise with. The cast is an admittedly distinctive lot, from a Duke and a Duchess, down to the lower echelons of society, but they didn’t really click for me.
And the other is my cat. This one…
I love my cats, all three of them. But last Thursday morning (as in 2am in the morning) Carrie decided to zoom round the bedroom, howling, fighting with her sisters and general being a pain. And, rather obviously, waking me up. And I haven’t really had a good night’s sleep since. Things look promising on Sunday morning. I glanced at the clock, at about 6:30, noticed Carrie was happily sleeping on me, started dozing again… and then she hopped off and noisily vomited on the bedroom floor. As such, I been feeling a bit frazzled recently and a complex mystery like this one was probably more than my brain could follow.
As for 1937-ness, there’s some discussion of Fascism and Communism, and the similarities and differences therein, as embodied by a character who goes from one extreme to the other before abandoning both. And Bobby at one point speculates (possibly sarcastically) that in one or two elections time, the country could be run by “Bolsheviks”.
So, I do recommend that you take a look at this one, as there’s a lot going on, but it was more than I could appreciate properly in my current state. I do enjoy the Owen series and will certainly be back for more – in fact, I might even give this one another go when I’ve forgotten who did it…