Comes a Stranger is the best sort of book: the kind you want to read all the time. Sit down with a cup of coffee? Read another chapter. Ooh, just one more, and so on. This is the more remarkable because the book has been out of print for seventy years. In his day, E R Punshon was a popular writer admired by Dorothy L Sayers. His best known books are the series about Bobby Owen, an unusual hero because he works for Scotland Yard but as a Detective-Sergeant rather than a DCI.
The Stranger of the title is death. Can it be mere coincidence that as soon as Owen, known to be ‘a Scotland Yard detective’ appears on the scene, the murders begin? It’s almost as if someone wants old mysteries solved. He is visiting his fiancée, Olive, who is staying with Miss Kayne, an old family friend and owner of the world famous Kayne library. Started by Miss Kayne’s father and run by the mysterious librarian Broast, the library is the repository of some of the world’s rarest books; yet Miss Kayne seems to hate it. Even more strange is that almost her first words to Owen are that she once committed ‘the perfect murder’. The bodies begin to pile up, there are suspects galore and the book gallops towards a Götterdämmerung-style climax. An afterword by the crime historian Curtis Evans explains how part of the story (minus the murders) was based on a true case.
Comes a Stranger will be out, with four other Punshon novels, on 7th December and they’ll be cheap as chips. All praise to Dean Street Press for reissuing these books and thanks for sending me a copy of Comes a Stranger. I’ll be reading the rest as well.