Six Were Present (E. R. Punshon)

By E. R. Punshon

First published: UK, Gollancz, 1956

My review

Punshon’s last novel has all the right ingredients for a grand finish: an African witch-doctor’s bag containing a map to a uranium field, a one-legged crone and her hunchbacked son, a dubious medium, and an impossible murder committed at a séance. Instead of the baroque masterpiece we could have had, this is substandard. The murderer and method are obvious well before the murder is committed, and the plot goes round and round in circles for 150 odd pages while Bobby tries every solution except the obvious one.

Contemporary reviews

Observer (Maurice Richardson, 3rd March 1956):

Forty-ninth and, alas, posthumously published detective story by this veteran who always seemed so much younger than his years.  Bobby Owen and Olive unearth some strange country cousins who sport an African witch doctor’s bag (Phew!).  Murder by stabbing from a distance.  Also a sinister crippled crone who can sprint on crutches.  Some swansong!


Manchester Guardian (Francis Iles, 1st February 1957):

Three old stalwarts appear this month with typical offerings.  Six Were Present is Mr. E.R. Punshon’s forty-ninth detective story, and he has seldom written a better.  A witch-doctor’s medicine bag, a dark tower, a hunchback, and a lovely girl with a sullen mouth are the ingredients; and Mr. Punshon’s pen has lost none of its magic in the mixing of them…