First published: UK, Macdonald, 1956
The car which overtook Ludovic Travers on his way to spend a short holiday with an old friend in Suffolk was plainly heading for trouble, and sure enough Ludovic had not gone much farther when he found it wrecked. The driver had been killed, but was soon identified as a man called Ranger—a newcomer to the district who had made himself unpopular and was also known to be going around too much with the attractive wife of another local resident—the bibulous Major Black. Just another tragic consequence of reckless driving? So it seemed, until further investigation showed that it wasn’t the actual crash that had killed Ranger. Moreover, Major Black was mysteriously missing from his home. Then a second body was discovered on a nearby farm, and here the curious thing was that chrysanthemum petals were scattered on the dead man’s overcoat. Detective Inspector Jewle of Scotland Yard was now in charge, and inevitably Ludovic found himself committed to another busman’s holiday in the course of which he was to meet with one experience that temporarily shattered even the legendary urbanity of a Travers.
Good, solid Travers, more rural than most of the later books. Excellent job of unravelling complex, somewhat coincidence-driven plot. More emphasis on discovering the victim’s past history than on details of modern crime—no cast-iron alibis. New facts being discovered—onion technique: no stonewalling or dead ends. Thoroughly absorbing.
Observer (Maurice Richardson, 30th December 1956):
Ludovic Travers, chugging through deepest Suffolk in his old Bentley, finds one corpse in a car; another turns up strewn with chrysanthemum leaves. Cosy, zestful, investigation reveals poisoning, blackmail, and impersonation. Thrillerish developments. Travers gets coshed and is ominously proud of being a real tough private eye.
NY Herald Tribune Bk R (James Sandoe, 22nd September 1957, 110w):
Mr. Bush is perennially dependable as a relaxed, literate companion of an observant, genteel, wry persuasion but when he startles us like this we are doubly grateful for his presence.
NY Times (Anthony Boucher, 22nd September 1957, 60w):
Surprisingly readable even for those who, like me, hardly look forward to the author’s twice-yearly appearance.
The Saturday Review (Sergeant Cuff, 28th September 1957):
Ludovic Travers, erudite London eye, takes on rural case stemming from car crash; Yard, local cops team nicely. Three dead in terminal count; identical twin doctors among cast, as is credible G.I. sergeant; pace urbanely pleasant. Nice follow-through.