With a Bare Bodkin (Cyril Hare)

By Cyril Hare

First published: UK, Faber, 1946

My review

A rather dull entry in Hare’s series. Francis Pettigrew makes his second appearance, as Legal Advisor to the Pin Control, an obscure government department lodged in a former mansion belonging to Lord Eglwyswrw, and where an employee (and former lunatic) is stabbed while making tea. Ironically (and probably a sign that Hare had read Marsh’s Artists in Crime recently), the victim was the proposed murderess in a fictional murder plotted by the suspects. Unfortunately the detection also comes straight from Marsh at her worst: interminable serial interviewing without intellectual excitement. The book is so utterly dull that it is impossible to maintain interest in the plot, and the most probable suspect turns out to be the murderer.

Contemporary reviews

John O’London’s Weekly (Evelyn Banks, 31st May 1946):

Another old friend is back again in With a Bare Bodkin, by Cyril Hare.  He is Mr. Pettigrew, a middle-aged lawyer, here acting as legal advisor to the (wartime) Ministry of Pin Control, where a member of the staff is surprisingly murdered.  The background of a Government department in all its glory of red tape, files, “in”, “out” and “pending” trays is excellently done, for Mr. Hare is an accomplished writer and his book is very enjoyable in spite of the fact that it is possible to pick holes in his murder plot.


Manchester Guardian (Charles Marriott, 31st May 1946):

“Who done it” is precisely the motive of With a Bare Bodkin, by Cyril Hare, which is about a murder in the unlikely setting of the Ministry of Pin Control.  The plot is thickened by connecting the murder with apparently irrelevant evasions of the Control and given an original turn by innocent rehearsals by members of the staff.  The story gains by the level tone of the narrative, conducted chiefly by Mr. Pettigrew, who is legal adviser to the Control.