I have enjoyed reading the Golden Age crime novels published by British Library and Dean Street Press, but many of them put a complicated plot ahead of the development of character and motive. At some point, I think many of these puzzle-driven novels get too tangled in their clues to be enjoyable. One of these is Death in the Tunnel, which actually faces us with two puzzles—how the crime was committed and how another crime got it started.
Sir Wilfred Saxonby gets on the train home from London one evening and asks for a private compartment. When the train is midway through a tunnel, the driver sees a signal to stop and slows almost to a halt before getting the green light to speed up again. When the train gets to its destination, Sir Wilfred is found dead, shot by a small-caliber pistol. Everything Inspector Arnold can discover seems to point to suicide. But there is that strange halt and other anomalies. Arnold’s friend Desmond Merrion is inclined to suspect murder. But the locked train compartment amounts to a locked room mystery.
First of all, let me just say that it’s a good thing Desmond Merrion is around, because Inspector Arnold has got to be one of the dumbest cops in history. For example, as soon as the tunnel’s ventilation shaft was mentioned, I knew it was important, but it takes another day and Merrion’s suggestion for them to look at it and still Arnold has to have the car tracks that lead to it pointed out to him. Later again he fixates on a poor old man when it is obvious he has been framed.
The murder itself isn’t hard to understand, but a crime that kicked it off had my head reeling with details about when checks were signed. And that leads me to the things I didn’t buy at all: (1) that a man could tell immediately the brand of typewriter used to type something (with comparisons to samples, yes, but not at one glance) and (2) that “experts” could tell by looking at a check whether it had been endorsed when it was written or later.
So, all in all, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as some others. By the way, there was no discussion of motive at all.
Sorry that it was a weak mystery.
Yes, not the best.
I often enjoy locked room mysteries, but they do sometimes become too complicated and too concerned with how the murder was done, rather than the motives. I was a bit disappointed with Miles Burton’s The Secret of High Eldersham so I’m not sure if I’ll read this one.
I haven’t read that one. Nice title.
Agreed. I had high expectations of this having really enjoyed The Secret at High Eldersham, but this one got too bogged down in the locked room aspects. Merrion is likeable though – I’d still be willing to try another.
Great, one to avoid and who needs a dumb cop?!