Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Body in the Basket: Review

The Body in the Basket (1954) by George Bagby finds our author and narrator on holiday in Spain. He's waiting for his friend Inspector Schmidt to arrive when he has a couple of odd experiences. First, he watches a fellow American steal an oyster knife from their waiter's oyster cart and slip it into her handbag. When the waiter is disciplined by the outraged MaĆ®·tre D', George can't help but stick his two cents in--leaning over and asking the girl if she hasn't had her bit of fun and shouldn't she hand over the knife and get the kid out of trouble. Her English escort comes charging to her defense and all but calls George out for a duel. Later he gets a young street boy out trouble and into a taxi only to be thanked by being slugged over the head and left in alley where people think he's drunk.

You wouldn't think that these incidents would lead to an unknown dead man in a large basket being delivered in George's name to his hotel--just in time for Inspector Schmidt to help him open it. But there you are. A large basket IS delivered to George at his hotel and it DOES contain an unknown man in a Guardia Civil uniform. It is only through the help of Schmidt (who just happens to be toting around a document from very high-ranking officials telling his Spanish counterparts to grant him every courtesy) that George is not dragged off to have the "truth" squeezed out of him by the Spanish military police force.

Schmitty and Baggy (what adorable nicknames...) work furiously to find out who the man in the uniform is, why he was sent to Baggy, and what Sally (she of the oyster knife) has to do with it all. Then Sally disappears, a ransom note appears, and Baggy & Schmitty are off on the trail of apparent kidnappers and...possibly spies. 

I'd not read anything by George Bagby (Aaron Marc Stein) before. This was really quite a lot of fun. Not much in the way of classic detection--though Schmitty does put in a bit of good fancy investigative footwork--and there's not much in the way of clues strewn about for the reader to pick up on. But there's quite a bit of action and an exciting finish. Bagby does well with the characters and gives us a good feel for Spain in the post-WWII years. Definitely good entertainment and I look forward to the two other Bagby books sitting on my TBR shelves.  ★★★★

[Finished 5/22/18]

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