The Case of the Prodigal Daughter (Christopher Bush)

By Christopher Bush

First published: UK, Macdonald, 1968; US, Macmillan, 1969


Blurb (US)

Drugs, thugs, pornography, blackmail & murder mark the trail of the runaway daughter of an English lord in

THE CASE OF THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER

An urgent plea from Lady Marport to find her missing seventeen-year-old daughter plunges Ludovic Travers into Soho’s sordid underworld of blackmail, drugs and murder—a subterranean search that leads to rock discotheques, a pep-pill ring and a pornographic film company.

Who was the mysterious bearded man whom the missing girl, Beryl, had known the year before, and who Travers suspects may be connected with her disappearance?  What was his connection with the Painter Academy and with the man—whose face was vaguely familiar—whom Travers meets during the course of his inquiries?  And why does Lady Marport suddenly and most surprisingly call a halt to the investigation?

These are just a few of the problems facing Detective Travers in Christopher Bush’s masterly new story of suspense—The Case of the Prodigal Daughter.


My review

Bush’s last novel, and a far cry from the GA Baroque works of the 1930s, with their emphasis on unbreakable alibis.  This is very much a product of the 1960s, addressing such topical concerns as the generation gap (parental control vs. teenage rebellion), changing moral standards (the missing girl’s mother runs an organisation called Home and Family, suspiciously similar to Mary Whitehouse’s NVALA), drugs, pop music, television, and pornography.  For all his dislike for pop music and most of television, Bush’s sympathies are with the missing Beryl, and against her control freak mother.  Bush’s eye for how Britain changes over time (reflected in the way his books become more “hard-boiled”) is comparable to Agatha Christie’s.

The story is very short (166 pp.) and fast moving, without any longueurs.  However, while the plot is soundly constructed, it’s not inspired—there’s little ingenuity (the murderer is the chief suspect), but skill in putting the jigsaw puzzle together.

Would a TV series, similar in style to the Cathy Gale Avengers, work?


Contemporary reviews

The Saturday Review (Sgt. Cuff, 29 November 1969):

Ludovic Travers, learned peeper, suffers bodily harm while trying to determine who is an heiress and who is not.