First published: UK, Jarrolds, 1926
What could be more innocent than a herbaceous border? Yet such a border, hidden in a secluded old garden, held the key to an apparently baffling mystery.
Bush’s first detective story, and a rarity. It’s been reprinted by Dean Street Press, with an introduction by scholar Curt Evans.
It’s an agreeable detective story, leisurely paced but deliberately so.
It’s obviously the work of a clever man. Bush’s style lifts him out of the Humdrum class. There are riffs on Shakespeare and James Russell Lowell; see also the opening of Chapter XIV.
At this stage, “Ludo” Travers isn’t the main character; he’s more of a sidekick to Major Wrentham. Travers here is also nervous, and unsure of himself. (This trait was dropped in later books, but Travers is always introspective.)
Much of the pleasure of the book comes from Wrentham’s return to a Norfolk village in 1919, and readjustment to peace after the War. This is the England of village cricket, vicars, and country gardens.
The mystery concerns the death of a financier, and the search for his treasure. Part of the solution is one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in years – an incredulous yelp of “WHAT?!”