Sunday, September 16, 2012

Case For Three Detectives by Leo Bruce

Mrs Thurston is an amiable, benevolent, harmless middle aged woman. She loves to entertain and play the hostess, one evening when she was playing her part as a hostess to perfection, sleep induces her to leave her party and retire to bed. A few minutes later the guests in her drawing room below hear blood curling screams of a woman, the party rushes upstairs only to find Mrs Thurston's bedroom bolted from the inside.

They break open the door and find the poor lady murdered, her throat has been slit and there is no sign of the killer, there are two windows in the room, but looking outside they see no one and the flower bed beneath the window is undisturbed. After a through search of the room no one is found hiding in the room and there is no indication of a secret entrance. Then, where did the killer go? pretty soon people realize that they have all just witnessed a locked room murder, a locked room murder is obviously out of the league of local police sergeant, Beef.

Enter Lord Plimsoll, Amer Picon and Monsignor Smith, three amateur detectives who will remind the reader of three very famous literary detectives, as the three detectives race against each other to solve the crime, Sergeant Beef sits contemptuously in the background shouting that he has the solution, but will anyone listen?

My Take:

First published in 1936, the book reminds me a lot of the brilliant "The Case of the Poisoned Chocolates", in that too we had different amateur detectives trying to solve the same murder and each comes up with their own solution to the crime and each time a different murderer, Case For Three detectives does the same thing with a locked room murder thrown in between. Case for Three Detectives is an equally entertaining and amusing work.

The three detectives Lord Plimsoll, Amer Picon and Monsignor Smith are obviously parodies of Lord Peter Wimsey, Hercule Poirot and Father Brown respectively. It is easy to recognize your favorite amateur detectives, though they are carrying a different name but they are acting the same. Amer Picon refers himself as a Papa Picon like Poirot refers to himself as Papa Poirot and has an unnatural obsession with order.
Lord Plimsoll is devilishly handsome, carries around a title, a butler and dresses as immaculately as the detective created by Sayers herself. Monsignor Smith is a catholic priest, has a round face and carries around an umbrella, dressed in black the little figure like that of Chesterton's creation is in a habit of uttering inexplicable remarks.

The Three detectives are entertaining to read and certainly come up with very intelligent and expounded theories about the crime, had the author not been writing a parody anyone of these theories/solutions would have worked to make a nice detective novel, although Poirot or his parody Amer Picon is my favorite but I was more inclined towards the solution provided by Lord Plimsoll or Wimsey's parody. Father Brown unlike his books where he is very boring, is wickedly funny and eccentric. Sergeant Beef who is the real hero of the piece is an amusing character but is a minor character in the book and I can't see him as a lead detective in any book. It is also a little hard to believe that a Policeman can be so ill treated that he is not even allowed to state his case, because if he had then the book would have ended abruptly as he did have the right solution in the end, which he is allowed to reveal only in the final chapter. Other characters are quite weak and remembering them becomes a mental exercise, even the narrator seemed like a forgettable character.

The solution is a twist ending, but this is one of those endings where the author should have stopped at the first solution, it seemed more appropriate as the second one seems a bit too stretched, the murderer takes too big a risk relying on the silence on one of the parties involved. Besides these minor quibbles the book has a lot going for it the multiple solutions to the locked room are satisfactory, three detectives steal the show and the murderer is a clever piece of work.

I'm rating this 3.5 out of 5.

Where can yo buy it?, you can get it for around 500 bucks.


  1. This seems to be very interesting Rishi. Never heard of this writer before but now will look him up. Thanks for the review.


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