Tuesday, May 29, 2018

E. R. Punshon's Music Tells All: A Bobby Owen Mystery

Music Tells All (1948) is the 24th out of 35 entries in the Bobby Owen mystery series of E. R. Punshon and only the second one I've read so I'm a relative novice here. In it he teams up with one of Punshon's other detectives, the gloomy Superintendent Bell.

The Dean Street Press eBook edition that I read comes with an introduction by the mystery blogging world's Curtis Evans of The Passing Tramp.

The setup in this one is wonderful. There's what looks very much like a gift horse--a cottage in the countryside at a reasonable rent for Bobby Owen and his wife Olive--and Bobby Owen can't help but keep looking in its mouth. That horse has got two questionable teeth: it seems to be the headquarters--or is it?--of a 'smash and grab' gang operating in London, and then there's some sort of odd Gothic set of love--or is it?--relationships going on among the village's residents. Mr. Fielding is in love with Miss Bellamy, but Miss Bellamy won't talk to anybody, but merely plays the piano, moodily and brilliantly. Miss Rogers is in love with Mr. Fielding's chauffeur, Fred Biggs, but he's in love--or is he?--with Miss Bellamy. And then there's the great question of where all this good food is coming from: it's 1948 and rationing is still on.

The middle, though, I didn't find as strong. It's pretty clear who the murderer is going to be, and it doesn't help when Owen and Bell say it could be person X or it could person Y, all the time conspicuously not suspecting the actual murderer Z. Also a fair amount depends on the psychology of Miss Bellamy, with much portent being laid on her piano playing, and I'm afraid that level of psychological complexity is just a bit above Punshon's pay grade. So on the whole I didn't like it quite as well as the first one I read.

Still the final reveal is well-done and I'll be reading others in the series.

Vintage Mystery Challenge. Golden Age. Who. Crime-solving duo. A mashup of Punshon policemen.

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