First published: UK, Michael Joseph, 1970
In this story Dame Beatrice Lestrange Bradley finds herself in the unusual position of being involved with a shady professional boxing establishment run by a gang whose activities are a cover for something which Damon Runyon would call, ‘by no means a high-class business, and even considered somewhat illegal’.
Toby Sparowe, the nephew of one of the Dame’s friends, has bought a derelict railway station opposite the public house where the gang have established their training quarters, and where a callow youth is being coached for a non-existent fight. In fact, the boy is being used as a cloak for the gang’s profitable but nefarious enterprises. Toby befriends him and offers to help with his training but this does not suit the gang’s plans and they rudely brush off Toby’s offer.
When a murder is committed and the youth charged, Toby’s suspicions are aroused. He invokes the help of Dame Beatrice who uses her formidable wits to bring about a happy but not a highly ethical ending.
Mitchell’s forty-third novel is an entertaining and well-plotted piece, involving boxing and organised crime — sport is often associated with crime in her books, e.g., The Dancing Druids. The inn and village milieux are both good; the courtroom scene both good drama and good comedy, as two daft criminals, Gracechurchstreet and Maverick, are called up to testify. The solution is surprising — good misdirection and reversal of ideas.
Note similarities to both David and Goliath, and to H.C. Bailey’s The Sullen Sky Mystery (read it, if you haven’t!).