The Padded Door (Brian Flynn)

This is a palate cleanser between criminal courses – a sorbet, if you will, light and refreshing. Meditations on death and disease, a sleuth’s world weariness, and revulsion at malfunctioning bodies are outside Flynn’s ambit. Here we have the problem, and nothing but the problem. Fortunately, it is a good problem – one, in fact, of the best Flynn has given us.

Captain Hilary Frant is arrested for the murder of Pearson, a moneylender and blackmailer into whose clutches letters compromising Frant’s sister had fallen. Frant has one defence: he is a gentleman. He may have called Pearson a blackguard, but he would never have struck his victim from behind.

Flynn presents a very clever and elaborate scheme to secure a (literal) miscarriage of Justice. It is also, however, quite transparent. Soon after the discovery of the second corpse, the reader should be able to state what happened, and who was involved. Certainly by the time Bathurst questions the maid. The start of Chapter II and Bathurst’s remark that the criminal is out of reach also seem to set up a twist that never comes off, and which would have made better sense of the second death. While Flynn plays impeccably fair elsewhere, a couple of (minor) clues aren’t shared with the reader (the clicked fingers, the Cheddar).

Note: Flynn has obviously read Van Dine recently. Chapter 1 opens with a pastiche of Van Dine’s magisterial prose and ominous hints.

Other reviews: In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

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