Sunday, May 1, 2011

Vintage Mystery Sunday: Case for Three Detectives

Sorry, I've been AWOL for a couple of weeks--getting ready for and having surgery will do that to you. But, now that it is Sunday and I'm fairly alert, 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.

This week I'd like to draw your attention to Case for Three Detectives written by Leo Bruce. The back of the book says that this is "possibly the most unusual mystery ever written." It is certainly a most ingenious send up of the Golden Age mystery novel written by someone who obviously knows and loves the genre.

It's been over twenty years since I read this one. It was my very first introduction to the work of Leo Bruce. Bruce is the pseudonymn for Rupert Croft-Cooke, a British author of both fiction and non-fiction under his given name. Using the name Leo Bruce, he created two series detectives: Sergeant Beef, a solid British police officer, and Carolus Deene, a senior master of history with an interest in criminology. It was also my very first parody of the mystery genre--and one I enjoyed very much.
Case for Three Detectives features Sergeant Beef and it pits the no-nonsense common sense of the British police officer against those of three amateur detectives: Lord Simon Plimsoll, Amer Picon, and Monsignor Smith. Discerning readers (especially those well-steeped in the Golden Age) will immediately recognize the similarities to certain well-known literary figures. Each of these amateurs quickly produce their own brilliant solution to the murder which has been commited in the familiar confines of a Locked Room. Each solution is startlingly original and iron-clad in its logic. While all along, Sergeant Beef eyes these amateurs with contempt and and states repeatedly, "But I know who done it."

I enjoyed my outing with Sergeant Beef so much in this mystery that Leo Bruce became a mainstay on my TBR and TBO lists. I've read every Sergeant Beef mystery that I could get my hands on--so far only two others of the eight original. And searching for Sergeant Beef brought the Carolus Deene novels to my attention. I have to confess that I'm a bigger fan of the academic amateur than I am of the British police officer in this case. But I continue to hold high regard for Case for Three Detectives. It is such a marvelously well-done parody and down-right good mystery on its own. I highly recommend it.

No comments: