Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tuesday Night Bloggers: The Holidays of Carolus Deene

The Tuesday Night Bloggers have decided to take a little different tack for the upcoming months...instead of featuring a particular author and their works each month, we're going to invest some time examining themes. This month's theme is Travel...murders while on holiday, murders on planes and trains and boats, murders by the seaside and murder in the mountains. However, you might imagine a mystery taking place while traveling will be up for examination. Curtis over at The Passing Tramp has once again offered to host our weekly gatherings. Come and join us!

Now, I realize full well that Leo Bruce's Carolus Deene novels don't technically meet the often accepted Golden Age date standards since they did not appear during the period between the World Wars. The first novel to feature Deene was At Death's Door, published in 1955. However, Bruce does meet many of the Golden Age plot conventions--particularly with Deene. He is an amateur--an independently wealthy history master who has a keen interest in the criminal to the dismay of his headmaster. There are usually plenty of clues, red herrings, and nicely turned puzzle plots to consider. Most of the Deene stories have a limited cast of suspects and the killings take place safely off-stage. 

The Deene stories fit particularly well with our travel/holiday theme because nearly all of his adventures take place during the school holidays. Mr. Gorringer, the headmaster, is always quizzing Deene over where he will be spending his holiday (and hoping against hope that the history master hasn't heard of the latest murder off on the coast or where-have-you). His investigations have taken him from small Kentish towns where witchcraft is blamed for the evil doings in the village (Death on Allhallowe'en) to the village of Hallow's End (Death at Hallow's End) where a family lawyer disappears before he can help a wealthy client disinherit his kin and other country villages where elderly women (strangers to one another) are killed in the same way with no apparent links between them (Jack on the Gallows Tree). He has visited the seaside in both Such Is Death and Death Is Our Jubilee to solve the riddles a brutal murder in a remote shelter on the promenade at Selby-on-Sea and the sandy burial of a much-hated novelist Blessington-on-Sea, respectively. And there is is also the puzzle of the missing mayor at Oldhaven pier, a popular fishing spot, in Death of a Cold. He even finds murder while on shipboard holidays (in keeping with our TNG logo for the month) in Death in the Middle Watch and Dead Man's Shoes

Generally speaking, Deene isn't the Jessica Fletcher type of amateur--that is to say, you wouldn't necessarily need to run if you found out he had booked a holiday in your home town. It's rare that the murders just start happening after he arrives. Normally he sees an interesting case in the paper and decides to pay a visit to the scene of the crime or a relative (as in Jubilee) or a friend (as in Allhallowe'en) requests his help in untangling a nasty piece of business. And off he goes to track down clues and discover the villain. The most dangerous time for a possible murder is if you see Deene's name on a ship's manifest. Then you might want to hide in your cabin for the entire voyage.


Anonymous said...

Marvellous - just been reading Bruce's short stories in fact, though they don't include Deene as a character. Must get some of those novels too!

Brad (ahsweetmystery) said...

Great post, Bev . . . and yet another reason for me to avoid taking a cruise! I must find the time to read a Leo Bruce someday! Right now, I feel that if you and I put our TBR piles together, they might girdle the world!!! :)

Bev Hankins said...

Thanks, gentlemen! I had a good time putting this one together.

The Passing Tramp said...

Love Carolus Deene, thanks for this look!

Clothes In Books said...

This was a new name to me, and I wondered if he was an American author - but apparently not. Sounds right up my street for the days when I want a certain kind of mystery, and I will follow up. Thanks for the introduction!