First published: UK, Gollancz, 1928; US, Little Brown, 1928
Mystery at Lynden Sands, by J. J. CONNINGTON (his “Murder in the Maze” will be remembered for its exceptionally brilliant, and indeed brutal, opening scene), is characterised by the strict logic to which Mr. Connington’s readers have become accustomed. A greater element of excitement is, however, now added.
Mr. Connington has written several detective stories of a high order and one – “Murder in the Maze” – which ranks with the best thrillers in recent years. His latest tale is certainly on the same high level.
The mysterious death of a caretaker; the burglary of the mansion left in his charge; a murder on the beach, which throws suspicion on one character after another; an apparently motiveless attack upon a visitor; the appearance of a claimant to an estate; a case of kidnapping; and a line of footprints on the sands which breaks off as though the walker had vanished into the air – these are some of the elements out of which the story has been built.
As in his earlier works, the author plays quite fair with his readers; everything is satisfactorily accounted for; and all the evidence is given which is required for the solution of the complex problem confronting the detectives.
A typical detective story of the period, dealing with the return of a missing heir (possibly an impostor), bigamy, secret marriages, impersonations, and embezzlement. Sir Clinton is on a golfing holiday with his friend Wendover; since he is away from his stamping ground of Ambledown, he is partly an amateur. He soon takes charge, and reconstructs two murders and a disappearance from physical clues, including one victim’s clothing, footprints, and motor car tracks – impressive to watch. Wendover far from a thick Watson. His deductions from the victim’s overcoat, the time of rainfall, and his knowledge of detective fiction poke holes in the police inspector’s circumstantial case. The ending an exciting chase to rescue a girl from the villains’ clutches. Although Sir Clinton’s solution is logical and fair, the murderers are members of a criminal gang, rather than one person — disappointing as the rest of the book is so good.
Times Literary Supplement (10th May 1928):
Taking several murders, various crimes of less degree, such as impersonation and misuse of trust funds, a confused medley of footprints in the sand of the seashore, and some rather far-fetched pharmacological properties in the shape of amyl nitrate and a hypodermic syringe charged with extract of mad dog, Mr. Connington has blended his ingredients into an ingenious puzzle, the heterogeneous parts of which fit into a coherent whole and the deductive powers of chief constable Sir Clinton Driffield are brought to bear upon them. Ostensibly the chief constable was on holiday and came into the investigation as a pure spectator, together with an amateur who gives him occasion for some sly digs at the methods of the “classical” detectives of fiction; but in fact he directed the operations throughout, and it was he who prevented the arrest of the wrong person by perceiving the flaw which upset the convincing case industriously built up by a painstaking police inspector.
Outlook (H.C. Harwood):
No apology should be needed for taking very seriously indeed Mystery at Lynden Sands. This may just fail of being the best detective story of the century. Most connoisseurs with whom I have discussed it persist in preferring The Cask and others allude to the Mysterious Affair at Styles. It has even been objected, rightly or wrongly, and I think wrongly, that the motive for the murder was insufficient, and that too many people happened to come along to the scene of the crime, about the time of the crime. But, I would answer, no motive for any murder is adequate, or could be; and secondly, no one came to the scene unreasonably, without cause. The intricate detail is lucidly presented, and the ratiocination, though it taxes, does not overwhelm the intellect. The sensational and intellectual interests are beautifully balanced. Indeed, the proportions have been sought and attained as in some noble work of architecture.
Spectator (9th June 1928, 200w):
This is a detective story of the deliberately engrossing kind. The suspense is skilfully maintained; and the fact that the style is good does not lower the dramatic interest. Also, the lady in the case is quite charming.
NY Evening Post (H.E. dounce, 11th August 1928, 100w):
Mr. Connington is lively and his taste in plots inclines to the fantastic; he makes up for their improbabilities by clever, though obviously too hasty, writing.
Outlook (W.R. Brooks, 15th August 1928, 120w):
Mr. Connington gives you all the facts, and gives them to you entertainingly, so that even if you are one of those people who look at a detective story as a story and not as a puzzle, you’ll find this one worth an evening.
NY Times (16th September 1928, 220w):
Those who enjoyed the other Connington stories in which Sir Clinton Driffield appeared will not be disappointed in this one.
Sat R of Lit (13th October 1928, 150w):
Sir Clinton is an able, unspectacular, secretive sleuth who, though his methods are somewhat prosaic and long-drawn-out, gives one an impression of plausibility far stronger than that conveyed by showier performers.