The people at Dean Street Press are issuing more reprints of the Ludovic Travers series by Christopher Bush in May. Books 31 to 40 and they still won’t have finished! Here’s what they say:
‘May 4 2019 will soon be upon us, and what better time to release the next instalment of our Christopher Bush novels - sunny, funny and guaranteed to confound the keenest of mystery hounds…These novels…also feature lots of interesting aspects of the England of the time, now dealing with the immediate post-war period. These are all ably noted in the fascinating new introductions by Crime Fiction historian Curtis Evans.’
I find I like some of the Travers books more than others; hardly surprising when Bush wrote so many of them. I’ve just read The Case of the Haven Hotel and The Case of the Housekeeper’s Hair. Although the second one has such an intriguing title, I preferred the first. A hotel is the perfect setting for a classic crime novel, with the number of potential characters and therefore suspects. Ludo and his old friend Wharton are having a couple of weeks’ holiday away from their wives. Watch out for post-war Tory blues (see also e.g. Angela Thirkell) and several references to ‘Comrade Dalton’.* This was the time of food rationing, yet the hotel produces good meals and as much butter and sugar as you could want. Readers must have been drooling. Could the manager be involved in the black market? Travers is suspicious but then an ‘accidental’ death which he is convinced is murder leads him into much murkier waters. I felt that the crime eventually revealed hardly merited the number of murders committed but spotting the criminal is fun.
At the beginning of The Case of the Housekeeper’s Hair, Ludo is told in all seriousness that the speaker intends to commit a murder, which will be fully justified and will never be proved against him. Will this really happen? Travers believes him and goes to stay in coastal Essex near the chap’s home. Things don’t turn out as expected and as the story progresses the body count mounts. I found all the details about boats and tides rather too technical and the whole story very convoluted. At the end I felt the case was not really solved and that there had been far too much speculation involved.
What I miss in Christopher Bush’s books is any suspense or tension of the ‘will they catch the murderer before he/she kills again?’ kind. It’s all puzzle and Ludo’s famous intuition. They are still an enjoyable read.
*Hugh Dalton, Chancellor of the Exchequer 1945-47.