The Case of the Missing Minutes (Christopher Bush)

By Christopher Bush

First published: UK, Cassell, 1937; US, Holt, 1937, as Eight O’clock Alibi


My review

A definite improvement on 100% Alibis, which it reworks to some degree. As before, the identity of the man who committed a justifiable murder (the victim was an extremely nasty child abuser but not a paedophile) is evident from the halfway point, and, as before, his alibi relies on the workings of a clock. Indeed, Bush’s plots function like clockwork: they are concerned with minutiae, with the infinitesimal divisions of time, an emphasis which may account for the occasional sense of thinness. Here, the clocks motif is taken to its most extreme — and most ingenious — limit: SPOILER there are two clocks which have been manipulated independently, giving the murderer a genuinely unbreakable alibi.


Contemporary reviews

Sat R of Lit (30th January 1937):

Fiendish grampa slain just before he drives angel child mad.  Ludovic Travers regretfully spots killer.  Begins well, but yarn gets lots in maze of sub-plots that quite take edge off surprising solution.  Maybe.

 

Books (Will Cuppy, 31st January 1937, 230w):

If you like polite yet exciting jigsaws, Mr. Bush is your man.

 

Boston Transcript (13th February 1937, 360w):

The plot has the makings of an appealing story, but seems to stall at points, and is not as baffling as it seeks to be.

 

Times Literary Supplement (Mrs. Elizabeth L. Sturch, 13th February 1937):

The human interest of this story is refreshingly different from that of the general run of detective novels, for the heroine is ten years old.  The amiable detective Ludovic Travers becomes aware of her existence because the servants feel that there is something wrong about the household where old Mr. Trowte lives alone with his small grand-daughter.

After a few preliminary nosings around the neighbourhood, Ludovic finds Trowte murdered and literally at his last gasp.  It is certain that the murderer has just escaped from the house by another door—but who was he?  The field seems limited to a very few suspects, and as the exact time of the crime is known, alibis are all-important.  The question of motive, when unearthed, makes it seem so thoroughly adequate that Ludovic retires from the case—but he is still curious.  He solves the puzzle at last to his own satisfaction and to that of the reader who, naturally enough, will in this instance want to see the murderer escape.

 

NY Times (Isaac Anderson, 14th February 1937, 230w):

A skilfully constructed and thoroughly enjoyable crime puzzle.

 

Observer (Torquemada, 7th March 1937):

TRAVERS, POWER, AND SOME AMERICANS

We are all ready, and I think rightly, to shy away from the first hint of mullebria, in Ezra Pound’s sense, when we meet it in our reading.  But when Mr. Bush elects to give us a really good tale of a very, very foul old mad gentleman who, to be revenged upon his daughter-in-law, practises vilely competent mental torture upon the little girl Jeanne, Mr. Bush would be untrue to life if he were not allowed to indulge in a little nursery sentiment.  Mr. Travers becomes Uncle Ludo “and all that”.  Mr. Bush manages the business with as much tact as Mr. H.C. Bailey used in the somewhat analogous case of “The Little House”, and that is saying a great deal.  We are allowed, in The Case of the Missing Minutes, to be “on” to the most meritorious murderer of this ancient almost as soon as is Ludovic, and only a few hours before our old friend Wharton.  But how the minutes came to be missing, thus preventing Wharton from proceeding with the case, I only realised about fifteen pages before I was told.  I have been kicking myself ever since.