First published: Cassell, 1941
An entertaining look at a POW camp, written with shrewdness and humour. An incompetent officer is sandbagged in the snow; no footprints in sight. The murderer is very easy to spot (they have a cast-iron alibi, can’t have done it, so obviously must have), but there’s a clever murder method that Carr would have enjoyed.
There were difficulties from the first day Major Stirrop set foot in the Prisoners of War camp, and Captain Travers, his adjutant, saw trouble – dire trouble – looming ever nearer. For there was something sinister about the camp, and there were strange happenings among the prisoners. One day, when he was making his count, there was one prisoner too many; the next day the numbers tallied rightly – only to be wrong again within an hour or two.
Then Major Stirrop was murdered. And not only the Major – for other strange deaths happened in the camp. Christopher Bush has his own inimitable way of dealing with a mystery story, and this is one of his best – intriguing and thrilling from the first page.
Times Literary Supplement (Maurice Willson Disher, 24th May 1941):
If Mr. Bush’s account of a camp for prisoners of war is not strictly according to fact, his book should be studied by the authorities as a lesson in how it ought to be done. Almost anybody who reads it will feel capable of running such an establishment at a moment’s notice. No important detail is omitted: it becomes as familiar as a place known and lived in, and the commandant’s exasperating ill-humour is felt as an actual tribulation. It may need patience to acquire all this knowledge, but the benefits are felt when he is murdered. Interest in discovering the culprit becomes personal. Mr. Bush is shrewd enough for the Secret Service.
Manchester Guardian (E.R. Punshon, 1st July 1941): Great is the gain to any tale when the author is able to provide a novel and interesting environment described with evident knowledge. The scene of The Case of the Murdered Major, by Christopher Bush, is laid in a prisoner-of-war camp in England. The unpleasant camp commandant is murdered and the culprit is discovered by Superintendent Wharton, with Ludovic Travers playing this time the part of the bewildered onlooker.