Body Found Stabbed (John Cameron / A.G. Macdonell)


Rating: 3 out of 5.
Methuen’s ad, The Observer, 1932

Kilby St Benedict is the sort of English village where little has changed in centuries, until Armenian millionaire Theodore Mandoulian buys the Manor. The rural quiet is soon disturbed by murder: Seymour Periton’s corpse is discovered in the river, knifed. Periton enjoyed tormenting the vicar; he wore bright clothes on Sundays, organized charabanc outings for when the Bishop visited, and tried to cut out the vicar with Irene Collis, even though he was already engaged to Mandoulian’s daughter, the exotic Dido. The poet Macaulay also hated Periton; he too was in love with Dido. Or did John Laurence, mysterious guest at the inn, have a hand?

Macdonell’s book is a good example of the early 1930s English village mystery, complex and amusingly written, complete with map and both a sinister (?) rich foreigner and a mysterious stranger. The busy plot involves blackmail, fights in the wood (which probably didn’t kill the victim), Dido’s love affairs (less a romantic triangle than a romantic parallelogram), doped whisky, a second knife (too small to make the second wound), and the colossal schemes of a Napoleonic young stockbroker. There are plenty of physical clues, including torn letters (reproduced in text) and bloodstained feathers. Inspector Fleming’s methodical investigation reveals several villains laying false trails to frame or protect others, and a clever deception of when the victim died. Nevertheless, you should be able to spot the murderer and the motive quite easily.

Wouldn’t the medical evidence have determined that ROT13: Crevgba qvrq ba Fngheqnl, abg Fhaqnl?


Contemporary reviews

Western Morning News (P.H., 25 January 1932): Nearly every one of the characters in Body Found Stabbed comes under suspicion of being concerned in some way with the death of Seymour Periton, whose dead body has been found in a stream some way above the spot where the murder appears to have taken place.

This in itself is mysterious, and Mr. John Cameron, the author, complicates the mystery still further until it is difficult for the most experienced reader to guess the solution. This is a very well constructed puzzle.

Illustrated London News (27 February 1932): In Body Found Stabbed Mr, Cameron has invented an excellent puzzle and a tolerable solution. His chief characters are rather lurid, but his detective is a solid, flesh-and-blood figure, neither impossibly clever nor of that traditional stupidity which needs an amateur sleuth to cover its egregious blunders.

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