Originally Published in 1936, Re-published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2015
There isn’t much I enjoy more than reading mysteries written during the Golden Age of Mystery, the time period between the two world wars. It’s the reason I’m so obsessed with Agatha Christie’s books. This time period is a less harried time, the plots are generally like a good puzzle, the characters are often quirky, and the descriptions of the setting is usually very realistic and detailed. They almost always include a map of the area, so its almost like I’m traveling there.
So, I was very excited to learn that the Poisoned Pen Press has received permission to print the U.S. version of some little-known Golden Age works from the British Library’s Crime Classics. (Yes, Poisoned Pen Press is connected to the famous Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.) I decided I had to check them out. The Sussex Downs Murder is the one seeming to get all the buzz, so I thought I’d read it first and see what its all about,
Its the story of the disappearance of John Rother. He and his brother William own a farm in the beautiful area of Sussex in England. Together they manage the farm and several kilns which turn chalk into lime. John left one morning for a two-week vacation, but was never seen again. His car was discovered abandoned on a road going in the opposite direction. There was a bloody hat and other blood spatters in the car, but no John.
The police are involved in a general way — looking for a missing person. Superintendent Meredith is assigned the case. When human bones are found among the bags of lime that came from the farm, he begins a serious and methodical investigation of, what he now believes, is a case of murder. There are numerous suspects and Superintendent Meredith carefully and politely checks them all out. He, of course, is not above listening to local gossip. He’ll check out every possible clue.
I like Superintendent Meredith. His solid detective work paid off. He conscientiously plodded through, focusing on who had motive and how did the murder happen, turning over one clue after the another. He even went back and re-traced his steps when he hit a brick wall. He not only was tireless, but managed to stay upbeat about following all the leads. He’s a guy who loves being a good detective.
About the Author:
John Bude is the pen name for Ernest Elmore. He was quite the prolific author, writing thirty mysteries from 1935 to 1958. He was also active in the writing community. He was one of the founding members of the Crime Writers’ Association. There were two novels prior to The Sussex Downs Murder and they both featured Superintendent Meredith. Critics feel this third book was where the author really hit his stride.
Recommendation? Oh yes, definitely. Not only did I get quirky character, a complicated plot, and a good visit to Sussex Downs, but I had the chance to help Superintendent Meredith solve the case. He kept me with him the entire time. There is one more thing: The book cover is a beautiful piece of art, don’t you agree?