Friday, September 15, 2017
Case With No Conclusion: Review
It's been quite a while since I read one of Leo Bruce's Sergeant Beef novels. I read Case for Three Detectives over twenty-five years ago and enjoyed it very much. I immediately put Leo Bruce down as an author to look for and found Case With Ropes & Rings not too long after. I enjoyed that one as well, though not quite as much as Three Detectives. From there on, it was a long, dry Beef spell and all the novels I found (both at the library and to own) were from his Carolus Deene series. Not that I was complaining. Deene is a history schoolmaster and I do love me an academic mystery. But if my reading of Case With No Conclusion (1939) is anything to go by, it would seem that I have lost my taste for Beef (pun well and truly intended).
Despite the fact that he is incredulous that (former) Sergeant Beef has set himself up as a private detective, Lionel Townsend stands prepared to play Watson and faithfully record whatever cases may come Beef's way. And despite his Watson's doubts, Beef has a case in no time. Peter Ferrers calls on Beef to prove his brother Stewart innocent of murder. The family doctor, Dr. Benson, has been stabbed in the neck in the library of Stewart's cold, dark Victorian mansion, The Cypresses. Dr. Benson wasn't exactly well-loved and there are rumors that Stewart was having an affair with the doctor's beautiful wife. It doesn't help that the murder weapon, a favorite knife of the accused man, is lying on a table near the body and the only fingerprints on the knife are Stewart's. The police are certain they have their man, but Beef isn't convinced. He's certain that the butler is holding something back and there's the little matter of blackmail to be looked into. But who is blackmailing whom?
~~~~~Possible Spoilers Ahead: read at your own risk~~~~~
As I mention above, Sergeant Beef doesn't seem to do as much for me as he once did. I think he's supposed to be humorous. At least, it seems to me he's supposed to be poking fun at the mystery genre and his method of detection is supposed to be better than Lord Plimsoll and that lot. But Townsend's asides about how Beef's methods aren't so good and his general lack of enthusiasm for the hero just doesn't go over well. Yes, he's an anti-Watson, I get that--no adoring, faithful side-kick he. But I guess that's just not what I'm looking for these days
The mystery itself is fairly well done (thus earning most of the star-points), with an interesting (if now well-known) twist. I do have to say that I was disappointed to find that--as the title warns us--there is no real conclusion to the story. That is to say, Beef discovers the real killer but then doesn't do anything about it. The reason why is the twist. I understand Beef's reasons, but the lack of investigative closure is a bit dissatisfying. ★★ and 3/4.
[Finished on 9/9/17]
This fulfills the "Bloodstain" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.