The Golden Dagger (E.R. Punshon)

  • By E.R. Punshon
  • First published: UK: Gollancz, 1951
  • Availability: Dean Street Press, 2017

Rating: 1 out of 5.

The Golden Dagger, made by the Florentine artist and part-time murderer Benvenuto Cellini, is half-inched from Lord Rune’s display case. It turns up covered in blood in a phone box – the same phone box where someone rang the police to say that murder had been done at Cobblers.

And frankly, this is a load of cobblers. Punshon ventures into Michael Innes territory: peers, private art collections, and literary folk (writers, actors, and producers). But there’s not enough wit or fancy to make it soar. The early investigation is rather nebulous; as often in Punshon, there’s no corpse, so Bobby Owen sniffs after missing people until a dead body turns up in the wood.

The murderer is a very minor character. Most of the plot has no bearing on the mystery; the peer’s collection, his stagestruck daughter, her involvement with two men, his crook secretary, a missing popular author, his highbrow housekeeper, and a too-smart maid are all red herrings, there to clutter up the story.


Reviews

Observer (Maurice Richardson, 13th January 1952): Murder-mystery develops from disappearance of Cellini-hilted dagger from the Long Gallery in household of captious peer with pert daughter.  Usual Punshon blend of whodunnit, police investigation and thriller.

Times Literary Supplement (Alfred Leo Duggan, 25th January 1952): Bobby Owen never disappoints.  The Golden Dagger is written for the educated reader, who knows by experience that quite a scruffy little man who has a desk in a publisher’s or play-producer’s office commands reverence from the intelligentsia.  The plot is sound, and all the mysteries are fairly explained in the conclusion, though the numerous red herrings make it difficult to keep the thread in mind.  Mr. Punshon’s only weakness is a tendency to reveal the inside truth in rather the irritating, cocksure manner of Kipling when he was showing off.

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