Sunday, April 10, 2011
Vintage Mystery Sunday: Bodies in a Bookshop
Wow. Is it Sunday already? This week has flown by even faster than usual. But, since it is Sunday, it's time for Vintage Mystery Sunday--my chance to feature classic mysteries that I have read and loved before blogging took over my life and I began reviewing everything I read.
R. T. Campbell is another author who wrote detective novels at the time of WWII. Ruthven Cambell Todd was a Scottish-born poet, scholar, art critc, and fantasy novelist who turned his hand to a series of detective novels under the pen name R. T. Campbell. Unfortunately, he soon abandoned mystery writing for other literary projects and was quickly forgotten as a mystery novelist. At the time Dover came out with the reprint of Bodies in a Bookshop, his detective novels were nearly impossible to find.
This is a very witty mystery populated with entertaining characters and brisk dialogue. It also contains some of my all-time favorite quotes about bookshops and books. This one in particular:
If that isn't the truth. At least for me. I highly recommend that if you can get your hands on this mystery that you do so. A thoroughly enjoyable vintage mystery read.
This week I'm going way back to one of the first vintage mysteries I discovered after Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh. Bodies in a Bookshop by R. T. Campbell. At the time, I'd never heard of R. T. Campbell and the Dover edition that the public library carried was new to me too. I'd never seen these slim reprints anywhere else. But how could I resist a mystery with a title like that? A mystery and a bookshop? I was sold even before I read the synopsis.
And what a treat this reprint is. I was ecstatic to find a copy when rummaging through one of the local used bookshops. Not unlike the protagonist of our story. Botanist Max Boyle visits a "curious little shop in a side-street off the Tottenham Court Road" in London and is himself ecstatic with the bookish treasures he finds there. But then he finds something much more disturbing...two bodies in a back room filled with gas fumes. Boyle seeks help from "The Bishop," Chief Inspector Reginald F. Bishop of Scotland Yard. Bishop winds up asking for assistance from Professor John Stubbs, another botanist and amateur criminologist. The play between the professor, the protesting Boyle, and skeptical, world-weary Bishop is entertaining in itself. But the friction between them propels the trio to find the puzzle's solution.
The trouble with bookshops is that they are as bad as pubs. You start with one and then you drift to another, and before you know where you are you are on a gigantic book-binge.