Dead Man Twice (Christopher Bush)

By Christopher Bush

First published: UK, Heinemann, 1930; US, Doubleday, 1930

Blurb (UK)

Bush - Dead Man Twice.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

Here is the eagerly-awaited new book by the author of The Perfect Murder Case – that prince of detective stories and best-seller both here and in America.  Michael France’s butler, old Somers, is found dead of cyanide poisoning, and beneath the body is a suicide confession in the handwriting of his master!  In the room above lies France himself, known to the sporting world as the chief contender for the heavy-weight championship, with a neat hole through his head.  Double murder!  And so many clues – so many blind alleys – so many perfect alibis.  Once again Franklin and Travers are set the task of unravelling a seemingly impossible tangle.  An even more exciting and ingenious story than its predecessor.

My review

Bush - Dead Man Twice US.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

One of Bush’s best.  As the title suggests, the plot concerns the double murder of the same man, which also claims another victim.  A carping critic may cavil, claiming that the coincidence is as hard to swallow as cyanide-laced whiskey – but whisht!  The investigation demonstrates Bush’s mastery of the onion technique: the slow unravelling of layers of a complex plot. Franklin comes across as a jolly idiot, Wharton is ingenious (notably in Chapter XVII), and Travers is only peripherally involved. The murderers are obvious well before the end, but interest does not flag.  Wharton and Travers solve the case simultaneously, working from different angles.  The plot also involves a good mechanical device, of the sort that would work.

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (29th August 1930):

Dorothy Claire stamped her foot and said she would go to a night club, and three men were killed and another about to die because of it.  One of these men was Michael France, the gentleman boxer whose skill seemed to be about to earn the world’s championship title for him.  He had sent for Franklin, the detective, to help him unravel a mystery of anonymous letters, and when Franklin arrived at the house on a cold, foggy afternoon, the first thing he found was the dead body of Somers, France’s butler.  The man had been poisoned and beside the body was a suicide confession.  That seemed all right until it was discovered that the note was written in France’s hand and that the boxer himself lay dead upstairs.  The detectives on the case, Franklin and Wharton from the Yard, found it possible to conjecture many things from this situation, but the most reasonable solution was that the suicide confession, faked by means unknown, should have been beside the body of France, who had been murdered by a revolver shot and that Somers had been poisoned by doctored whiskey intended also for the boxer.  These detectives decided that the two attempts were made by different persons, both strongly suspected but both holding perfect alibis.  Quite logically, the case against them is built up, and although the reader is probably fully aware of who the criminals are, the story loses no interest because it seems well nigh impossible to fasten anything on to them.  With the help of Travers, the law gains the upper hand and the startling ingenuity displayed by the murderers is unmasked.  Travers approached the case from a new angle by using a kind of logical imagination which was just what was needed to piece together the jigsaw puzzle of clues, blind-alleys, and alibis collected by the prosaic detectives.


Books (Will Cuppy, 16th November 1930, 150w):

A smoothly written yarn, containing adequate motives and a sufficient number of clews, complete with charts, diagrams and a picture of the fatal mechanism.


Daily Express:

A mystery story that ranks with the best.


Daily Sketch:

An exceptionally humane and well-written detective story, full of ingenuity and surprise.