The Case of the April Fools (Christopher Bush)

By Christopher Bush

First published: UK, Cassell, 1933; US, Morrow, 1933


Blurb (UK)

Bush - TCOT April Fools.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

For once in his life Travers, the Durangos investigator, is made a fool of.  And on April 1st!

On the spot when two murders are committed, yet the dust is ingeniously thrown in his eyes till Chief Inspector Norris hits on the truth.

Meantime the author’s rapid pace in furnishing clues thoroughly intrigues the reader, as mystery after mystery is probed.

 

Blurb (US)

Bush - TCOT April Fools US.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

Travers had known it was a publicity stunt, all that business about the anonymous threatening letters.  He expected a hoax but what he found was two men lying dead on the floor of Crew’s bedroom.  To be confronted with murder at eight in the morning was no joke.  Norris, the quiet, steady Inspector of Scotland Yard, certainly didn’t think so, although during the weeks he and Travers sought to puzzle it all out, he many times remarked, “It was on April Fool’s Day, don’t forget that.”

Among the Characters are:

LUDOVIC TRAVERS – whose business was real estate but whose interest lay in solving crimes.  (See The Perfect Murder Case, Cut Throat, etc.)

NORRIS – Chief Inspector of New Scotland Yard, who, with Travers, eventually solved the case of the April Fools.

ÀLLARD – the wealthy backer of musical comedies who brought Travers into the case.

CREWE – the American actor, recipient of anonymous letters and whose death started the trouble.

SAMUELS – the large and hearty comedian whom Crewe brought to England with

DREW – the cowboy vaudeville artist, who with Crewe and Samuels had done the three-a-day through the States.

MASON – the butler, kindly old servitor of the Allard family whose secrets were his own.

SUE – Allard’s sister, the unsuspecting heroine of the dark plot.


My review

One of Bush’s masterpieces—on a level with Cut Throat and Dead Man Twice.  It’s a genuinely baffling country house murder.  The plot is complex, with two hidden marriages, a movie actors’ publicity stunt, and a butler’s devotion.  These all hang together—the clues and red herrings fit together into the elaborate framework, and no thread could be removed without irrevocably destroying the pattern.  The solution is beautifully simple—and, once you know, obvious.  Chapter III boasts one of those glorious passages in detective fiction that must be read twice, to appreciate the writer’s subtle art of hiding the truth in plain view—like the Harlequinade in Chesterton’s “Flying Stars”.  Some elements similar to The Hollow Man and Death on the Nile.  Golden Age Baroque at its best.

Was Carr inspired / influenced by Bush?  Solution reads like a Carr—three intersecting plots; best-laid plans gang agley; magicians and stage illusions.  For all his Croftsian unbreakable alibis, Bush is closer to Carr in approach, including the desire to hoodwink the reader / play games with him.

  • Built around idea of April Fools—SPOILER Crewe & Allard’s hoax; Travers gets it wrong
  • Reconstruction of crime—close attention to detail

·        Gentleman—ex-army & impoverished—takes on post as chauffeur—c.f. Colin Watson (& Lynn Brock’s The Deductions of Colonel Gore)


Contemporary reviews

Saturday Review of Literature (29th April 1933):

April Fool joke in English country house turns into double murder which almost fools detective Ludovic Travers.  What stumped Travers was that one man killed the other—and yet he didn’t.  Shoal of red herrings and incessant action adds to enjoyment.  Good.