- By Clifford Witting
- First published: UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 1961
A semi-inverted gang story—not my thing. There’s little mystery, since the reader is several steps ahead of the police. Solid but unexciting (and skimming is irresistible), because we know the plot before the police do, so the last few chapters feel like mopping-up—dotting t’s and crossing i’s.
Notably more humdrum than the earlier books—opening chapter (villagers catching bus) feels like Street; unauthorised conveyance of goods on public transport; bus timetables; no Charlton.
Last gasp of the ‘humdrum’ school?
1961 Hodder and Stoughton
It was laid down in the printed regulations of the Paulsfield & District Traction Company that no unaccompanied parcels could be accepted unless handed in at the company’s offices or accredited parcel agencies, yet there was reason to believe that Driver Harold Pearce was taking on parcels without authority and passing them out to a muffled man waiting by night at the stop on Mestham Common. Whether this had any connection with the series of housebreaking cases in that country district, and whether, too, the murder of a man who might—or might not—have been Pearce had anything to do with it, were questions that Detective-inspector Bradfield and Detective-sergeant John Jordan, his keen young assistant (too keen, Bradfield sometimes thought), had to answer before Bradfield could disentangle as pretty a web of felonious machinations as ever taxed the competency of the C.I.D.
A Catalogue of Crime (Barzun & Taylor, 1989): Also employing a gang, this is a better book than Busy Bees. Peter Bradfield has become head of the Lulverton C.I.D., and he is engaging. But an ingenious method of arson does not redeem a tale in which too much too talk and too many fingerprints monopolise attention.