By Lynn Brock
First published: UK, Collins, 1927
EX-P.M. IN SEX FILM SCANDAL!
There are queer goings-on at Dyke’s Court.
Lord Haviland, statesman and Silenus, watches pornographic films in his private cinema.
He stars in them, too.
His elder daughter holds orgies in 18th-century costume for a coterie who collect Crébillon (ideally first editions owned by beastly Beardsley).
His son beats Airedales to death. (Everybody’s got to have a hobby.)
And his fiancée – an authentic gold-digger of 1926 – cavorts, clad in nothing but a scarf, with a “bestial Negro” on the lawn.
Lord Haviland’s clan inherited their kink from Alonzo the Magnificent, “three or four geniuses mixed up into half a madman”.
He electrified people for fun; slept every night in a coffin; and staged an open-air nudist performance of The Bacchae in Italy, with a chorus composed of prostitutes. (“The proceedings ultimately developed into rows of asterisks.”)
His ashes, “by specific condition of his testament, were swallowed in a magnum of port by the unhappy heir to his estate and fortune”.
Gosh, you might well say!
Then there are the grinning jackanapes who presides over the festivities; an epicene Irish poet; a peasant seeking revenge for his son’s execution in the Troubles; an elderly, but still beautiful guardsman; and two missing men – one of whom turned up minus his left arm. (What, one wonders, can one do with only the right hand?)
This is a rum one, and no mistake: a mixture of the ponderously dull and the fantastical, with scenes that could have come straight out of Gladys Mitchell or Michael Innes.
There’s a love of language and a fantastical strain alien to the Humdrum. The poet Ronayne’s lyrical evocation of the buried moons in the black pool at Derraghvarna has the ring of Yeats or Lord Dunsany. The nocturnal costumed dinner in the formal garden has the dreamlike, phantasmagorical quality of Chesterton.
The puzzle fan, though, may be impatient that there’s no murder until Chapter XII – and as a detective story, it’s limp (if not flaccid).
Colonel Gore gets his underlings to trail suspects by taxi and railway, while he guesses the murderer’s identity.
All this sits oddly with the fantasy. But parts of it, my Lord, are excellent.
Blurb (1927 Collins)
The thousands of friends whom Colonel Gore made for himself in The Deductions of Colonel Gore and Colonel Gore’s Second Case will welcome his appearance in this third volume of the Gore series. In the solution of the still more sensational mystery which forms the plot of The Kink, he displays once again those qualities of dogged obstinacy and bland serenity in the face of difficulty and disappointment which have endeared him to countless readers. If he blunders here and there – for he makes no claim to omniscience or to infallibility – his admirers will appreciate all the more keenly the brilliant flush of inspiration which carries him once more to success.
The Saturday Review (Dashiell Hammett, 16 April 1927):
“The Kink” is a rambling, too wordy story written in accordance with one of the current recipes, dully Babylonian in spots, gloomily melodramatic, devoid of suspense. Colonel Gore is hired to find a couple of missing men, to watch another man, to recover some stolen documents. There’s a murder or two also in the book, but no excitement. This sleuth’s method is simple, however the author tries to disguise it: he stalls around till things solve themselves. Even when he gets hold of a mysterious automobile’s license number he takes no steps toward tracing it through the Metropolitan Police register, apparently not knowing that such an affair exists. Toward the last he does some guessing, but by then at least one reader had acquired too much of the Colonel’s apathy to be aroused…
There isn’t a credible character in any of these three books. Insanity seems to be growing in popularity as a motive for crime. Theoretically it has the advantage of not needing further explanation. Actually it’s almost always a flop.
Times Literary Supplement (19th May 1927):
On this occasion Colonel Gore is called in to discover who stole some documents and other objects from a dispatch case in the study of a distinguished statesman’s country house in Surrey. After various blunders—he is quite a human person, who with all his powers of brilliant deduction can err like ordinary mortals—he succeeds, but in the process he stumbles upon a tangle of disappearances, murders, Bacchanalian orgies, indecent films, and man-mad women, not to mention a romance of a sweeter savour, all of which are neatly dovetailed together in a puzzling and absorbing story.
A Catalogue of Crime (Barzun & Taylor, 1989):
The author’s third, and graced by short, intelligible sentences. Mrs. Melhuish occurs only in two fragments of a letter given at head and tail. The story deals skilfully with the antics of a family that has inherited strong orgiastic propensities. The goings-on are well done, without smirk or false reticence or wallowing; nor is there any prudish moralising on Gore’s part. There is in fact very little of anything on Gore’s part. His job, as he says, is guessing, and he guesses always a bit late. But the story bears reading.