First published: UK, Michael Joseph, 1965
The dull but important little town of Brayne, situated somewhere between London and Windsor, is celebrating its new status as a borough. Among other festivities, the Council have decided to stage an historical pageant. Along with other celebrities are figured Shakespeare’s Falstaff and two English kings—Henry VIII and Edward III.
The persons taking these parts are apparently innocent and harmless, and yet, in turn, all three are murdered, not, it seems, so much for their own sins as for the long-ago short-comings of the characters they represent in the pageant.
Dame Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley and her secretary, Laura Gavin, succeed in unravelling the mystery, Laura by making a somewhat gruesome discovery in the little river on which Brayne stands, and Dame Beatrice by applying to the case what the immortal Jeeves would call ‘the psychology of the individual.’
The pageant on display here offers rather a sorry spectacle, akin to mangy toothless lions and geriatric tightrope-walkers. Although the three murders seem to have something theatrically extravagant in their appearance, behind the gaudy costumes and elaborate stage-setting is nothing more than a rather dull series of murders, committed by a criminal we hardly know for reasons that seem insufficient in a manner that is unconvincing. The star performer, Dame Beatrice Bradley, hardly appears, and, however good company Laura Gavin and Kitty Trevelyan-Twigg may be, they are only minor parts. Not surprisingly, the audience is not amused.