The Case of the Hanging Rope (Christopher Bush)

By Christopher Bush

First published: UK, Cassell, 1937; US, Holt, 1937, as The Wedding Night Murder

Rating: 2 out of 5.

It’s not ropy, but it’s far from silken smooth.  The situation is Carrian: dead woman in one room, her drugged newlywed husband in the next, an unconsummated marriage, a noose, skulduggery with glasses, and someone pretending to be a ghost.  The victim had one scheme, of which the murderer took advantage; and more than one suspect is up to no good.

But it doesn’t tie together.  There are two interesting characters: glamorous Sonia Vorge, who dies, as Torquemada suggests, too soon, and a Victorian grande dame straight out of Margery Allingham.  The other suspects are colorless, and I had to remind myself which brother was which.  Motivation is weak, and the solution seems totally barking; P.G. Wodehouse for one wouldn’t have approved.

Bush shows his interest in theatre; one of the characters is a modern playwright of the cynical, satirical school, who’s inspired by the Jacobean revenge tragedies.  And Wharton goes to France.


Who murdered the beautiful Sonia Vorge in her bridal bed?  Why was that sinisterly looped rope hanging from the oak-beam?  And what had the Ghost of Montage Court to do with it all?

These are the problems confronting Ludovic Travers and he rapidly finds that there is much more in this than meets the eye and that there are things even Superintendent Wharton must not be told.

Belgian hares, missing “masterpieces”, the mysterious man from Odessa – Travers, with methods as unorthodox as they are brilliant, finally sees their significance and solves the case.

Contemporary reviews

Spectator (Rupert Hart-Davis, 30th July 1937, 40w)

Observer (Torquemada, 15th August 1937): Christopher Bush always writes well, and though it was only in March that he gave us the quite admirable Case of the Missing Minutes, his new Ludovic Travers story, The Case of the Hanging Rope, does not suffer from hurried composition.  But it does suffer, it seems to me, from other faults.  Ludovic’s wayward mind tacks more slowly than usual; the most interesting, vivid, and promising character in the book is murdered too soon; the pieces of criminal activity are, for my taste, too far apart.  Superintendent Wharton, save for one interview, is less robust than usual, and I doubt if Sonia Vorge would have got a single newspaper to help her in the plan she most vainly imagined she was carrying out against her husband.  But one trick which Mr. Bush has made especially his own, the confusion of minds working on the same crime with different ends in view, he has never more impressively performed.

The Saturday Review (2nd October 1937): Lovely but wicked Anglo-Russian slain on bridal night.  Suspicion points to elderly hubby, but Ludo Travers scents red herring.  Main murder motive somewhat beclouded by secondary robbery theme and Travers bluffs a bit too much in spectacular solution.  Agreeable.

Books (Will Cuppy, 3rd October 1937, 190w): Another topnotch Ludovic Travers story.

Booklist (15th November 1937)

NY Times (K.I., 5th December 1937, 240w): Confusion, alas! dogs the story all the way to the end.  Clues and suggestions are introduced too late, or too loosely, to be really interesting; and lack of organisation irremediably weakens what should have been a strong plot.

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