Friday, June 1, 2018

Platinum-Plated Certainty: The Case of the Platinum Blonde (1944), by Christopher Bush


“I suppose you haven’t heard our local sensation?” I said.

“No,” she said, and, “I didn’t know there could be a sensation in Cleavesham.  What was it?  An air raid?”

“Only a murder,” I told her.

                                                     --The Case of the Platinum Blonde (1944)

1st American edition, published in the
US in 1949, 5 years after the British
edition, 4 years after WW2 had ended
After having had his series detective, Ludovic “Ludo” Travers, become involved in a couple of investigations concerning highly nefarious activities in wartime London, The Case of the Magic Mirror (1943) and The Case of the Running Mouse (1944), Christopher Bush in The Case of the Platinum Blonde, which is to be reissued by Dean Street Press this month, sends Travers vainly for a break to the lovely and seemingly placid little village of Cleavesham, Sussex. 

There Ludo learns that there is something of the truth in Sherlock Holmes’s famous declaration (in the short story “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”) that “the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.” 

Travers has come to Cleavesham to rest and to visit his charming younger sister, Helen Thornley, who for the duration of the war has let Pulvery, her and her husband Tom’s Sussex country house (familiar to devoted Bush readers), and with her “old maid” Annie taken Ringlands, “what she calls a cottage,” while Tom is in military service in the Middle East. 

Soon Ludo encounters in Cleavesham a number of inhabitants who will play parts in the upcoming murder drama that afflicts the village, including Major Chevalle, the chief constable; his wife, Thora, young daughter, Flora, and Thora’s poor relation, Mary; village warden Bernard Temple; Lieut.-Commander Santon, wounded in the knee at Crete and now retired, and Tom Dewball, his manservant; Herbert Maddon, “quite a superior old man,” and his daily, Mrs. Beaney;  and odd duck “Augustus Porle,” a devout believer in harnessing the power of the Great Pyramid. 


No blond he:Christopher Bush (1885-1973)
at the time of the Second World War
Like any amateur sleuth worth his salt, Travers has not been long in Cleavsham when he runs across a dead body, in this case that of the seemingly inoffensive Mr. Maddon, who has been shot to death at his cottage, Five Oaks.  Evidence points overwhelmingly to the suspicious presence that day at Five Oaks cottage of a headily-scented, chain-smoking platinum blonde—and the identity of this blonde proves problematic indeed for Ludo Travers and Superintendent George Wharton, whom Scotland Yard has sent to investigate the case at the behest of Major Chevalle. 

This is but the intriguing opening to one of the most ingenious mysteries Christopher Bush ever penned, one that in the final pages will leave the reader facing the same moral dilemma as Ludovic Travers (who finds himself increasingly playing his own hand in the series, in the independent manner of an American private eye): now that I know the truth, just what do I do about it

WHO??? is
the mystery
BLONDE???
Reviewing The Case of the Platinum Blonde in the Times Literary Supplement a reviewer commented on the “exasperating” tendency of amateur detectives in crime fiction to conceal “incriminating evidence from the police.” 

Yet the reviewer concluded that in this case Ludovic Travers so thoroughly justified his fancy for obstructive behavior “that in future amateur detectives will be able to continue the bad habit [of obstruction] without objection.  Readers who have asked ‘Why?’ impatiently at the beginning of this book will be twice shy.” 

Will modern readers react to the outcome of The Case of the Platinum Blonde as predicted in the TLS?  You will have to read the book for yourselves and see!

Note, this novel and nine others in Christoper Bush's Ludovic Travers mystery series, #'s 21-30 in the series, are being reissued this month by Dean Street Press.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for alerting us to the upcoming release of the final third (?) of Bush's oeuvre - looking forward to them. :) Are there particular titles from the final third you would recommend, from the standpoint of the puzzle/ mystery?

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    1. Well, I would list The Case of the Platinum Blonde, despite the issue Kate had with the ending (which I thought was original and intriguing), The Case of the Murdered Major, The Case of the Kidnapped Colonel,The Case of the Missing Men, The Case of the Running Mouse to name five, but I also think the Case of the Magic Mirror had a lot of interesting points and The Case of the Flying Donkey (as it's called now) and The Case of the Fighting Soldier. I'll try to say some more about them this month.

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