Vintage Reading Challenge – May 2018

Murder in the Maze by J. J. Connington

Fulfils “Why – an author you’ve never tried”

Roger Shandon, owner of Whistlefield, made his money in shady dealings. His twin brother, Neville, King’s Counsel, is prosecuting the rich and dangerous Hackleton. One summer afternoon they are discovered, one after the other, at the twin centres of the estate’s celebrated maze. Were they both supposed to die, and if not, which was the intended victim?

Enter, for the first time, Sir Clinton Driffield, Chief Constable (and Connington’s main series sleuth, featuring in 17 of his 24 crime novels), and his friend “Squire” Wendover.

Further violent acts ensue before Driffield is able to flush out the killer, in a most unorthodox manner.

Connington has been included alongside Freeman Wills Crofts and John Rhode/Miles Burton in Curtis Evans’ “Masters of the ‘Humdrum’ Mystery” (see Puzzle Doctor’s review here) which I haven’t read, but I didn’t find this at all similar to any of the Inspector French books that I have read. Driffield has the advantage over French in that, as the top man in his area, he can play things exactly how he wants, and have others do the legwork if required. French is very thorough and pursues every lead, no matter how unlikely it is to bring results. Driffield seems to ignore promising lines of inquiry, which could have been better developed. We see inside French’s thoughts, but Driffield plays his cards close to his chest, so whilst we see Wendover’s thoughts and theories, we only see Driffield’s in the final exposition.

The killer’s identity does become clear as the book draws to its conclusion, but the explanation of various points in the set-up is sound and makes for a pleasing read.

Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers

Fulfils “How – at least two deaths by different means”

Death Bredon, a man bearing a remarkable similarity to Lord Peter Wimsey, takes up employment at Pym’s Publicity, a venerable advertising agency. He is a very inquisitive gentleman, particularly with regards to the recent death of Victor Dean who tumbled down a spiral staircase. Did he fall or was he was pushed? And if pushed, why?

Dorothy L. Sayers put her own experience of the advertising business into creating a wonderfuly fun setting for events to play out against, which culminates in Mr Bredon creating a scheme which has similarities to today’s Tesco Clubcard.

Another point in its favour from my point of view as a sportsfan, is a brilliantly depicted cricket match, which incidentally also gives a further clue to the identity of a murderer.

Although this is the first of her books that I ever read, I would not recommend using this as a starting point, but if you have read some Sayers’ this is a fine book, even if the central system around which everything revolves is perhaps slightly convoluted.



5 thoughts on “Vintage Reading Challenge – May 2018”

  1. I don’t think the Humdrum label was intended to indicate a similar style of writing, just that Symons didn’t like those authors much due to their tendency to emphasise plot over character. Connington is the closest to the style of Christie in my book. I can understand someone’s disinterest in Rhode or Crofts – they’re wrong but I understand it – but dismissing Connington in favour of, say, Marsh, doesn’t make sense in my book.


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