- By Brian Flynn
- First published: UK: John Long, 1931
- Availability: Dean Street Press, 2019, introduction by Steve Barge
The Triple Bite is entertaining but preposterous. Dying burglar ‘Salmon’ Trout knows the whereabouts of a treasure; he leaves a cryptic clue to the barrister who defended him. Said barrister persuades retired army officer to purchase the bungalow indicated; unfortunately, other crooks, led by gigantic, red-headed ‘Flame’ Lampard, also want the treasure. Gangsters brandish guns, nice young people are kidnapped, and bodies pile up – with triple puncture marks on their necks. “For God’s sake, mind the red thing that flies!”
The Triple Bite belongs to a sub-genre one might term ‘Base Under Siege’: professional criminals threaten nice people. (Other examples include Margery Allingham‘s Crime at Black Dudley and Georgette Heyer’s Footsteps in the Dark.) As elsewhere, Flynn disguises a whodunit as another sort of story; this appears to be an Edgar Wallace-type thriller with a larger-than-life villain; the moment we hear Lampard imports exotic animals, we’re meant to think that he must have some sort of nasty creepy-crawly – one of the centipedes bred by Fu Manchu or Dr. No, perhaps.
The solution is, as J.F. Norris and Steve Barge suggest, a tribute to Conan Doyle. The inspiration is an unrecorded case mentioned in “The Golden Pince-Nez”; Flynn also draws on “The Musgrave Ritual” (treasure and cryptograms) and “The Dying Detective” (the Sumatran coolie disease = the black Formosa corruption). But we’re in the territory of the more far-fetched Holmes stories; the solution leaps into pure fantasy, with imaginary cryptids and poisons unknown to science. Swallow the solution with a cupful of salt; that should also protect you from the Crimson Horror.