First published: UK, Macdonald, 1953; US, Macmillan
Ludovic Travers saw it happen. He saw a strange young woman assault Clement Foorde, and all because he had expressed his dislike for a certain best-selling novel. Was it a publicity stunt? Travers wondered, but then the matter went out of his mind until he heard on the radio one night that the author of the novel in question had been drowned in a Sussex river. Everyone, including the police, thought the affair to be no more than a tragic accident; everyone except the dead man’s brother who came to see Travers at the Broad Street Detective Agency with a piece of information that placed The Case of “The Silken Petticoat” in an entirely new light. Christopher Bush again proves himself a master of the true detective story, and provides plenty of hard thinking and fast action before a solution is reached.
Rather average, slightly weak, and more interesting for the sophisticated literary milieu (an attempt to write a Margery Allingham?) than for any merit of plot or detection. Although it opens in an unusual manner with an attack on an obnoxious critic, it soon settles down into humdrum plodding and ends with a “surprise” solution that turns out to be the one the reader expected from the beginning.
Title refers not to women’s garments, but to the novel.
Observer (Maurice Richardson, 4th October 1953):
Ludovic Travers chatting, sipping and pince-nez polishing his way through a murder case involving an extravagant, ageing, francophile dramatic critic.
Kirkus (15th May 1954, 60w):
Good tempered and well mannered.
NY Times (Anthony Boucher, 18th July 1954, 50w):
Starts off more brightly than most Bush, but settles down into conventionalities… Ludovic Travers’s detection is as desultory and inadequate as usual.
NY Herald Tribune Bk R (James Sandoe, 25th July 1954, 70w):
The proceedings are careful, dry, extended by all sorts of dodges and doubts before they settle at last upon the only possible murderer (all earlier candidates for murderer having been done in meantime). So that it is worthy in calculation, a little amusing in execution and flattish in conclusion.
Chicago Sunday Tribune (Drexel Drake, 1st August 1954, 20w):
Enjoyable narration of meticulous probing by the estimable London sleuth, Ludovic Travers, to link an extraordinary publicity stunt to a salacious novel with carefully shrouded murders.
The Saturday Review (Sergeant Cuff, 7th August 1954):
British novelist drowns as final opus booms; L. Travers and Yard curious. Two later deaths add lo Holds up bafflement; yarn among the author’s best. Holds up all the way.
San Francisco Chronicle (L.G. Offord, 15th August 1954, 70w):
Investigation meanders agreeably round the English countryside and over to France. Neither surprising nor urgent, this may be the thing for hot weather. B minus.