The Two Tickets Puzzle (J.J. Connington)

By J. J. Connington

First published: UK, Gollancz, 1930; US, Little Brown, 1930, as The Two Ticket Puzzle

My review

Run-of-the-mill and Croftsian Connington, even down to the railway time-tables. Oswald F. Preston was shot dead is shot dead on the 10.35 train; both his wife’s lover and an employer with a grudge are also on board; and the police are baffled by a prize-ram and a stolen car.  The murderer is obvious from his first appearance, and the red herrings stink to high heaven. Superintendent Ross’s detection is methodical but not enthralling.  The significance of the two (first-class return) tickets is revealed at once, and science is only present in the typewritten documents (used to better effect in The Sweepstake Murders). There is a fine car chase at the end, but the reader may still find the motive unconvincing and wonder what would have happened when Madge Winslow came into her inheritance.

Dorothy L. Sayers borrowed the central idea for The Five Red Herrings (1931).

Blurb (US)

An honest detective story.

All the clues are given.

Clever reasoning from the clues but no superhuman brain stuff.

No mass of evidence unearthed at the last moment.

No freak solution.

A minimum of horrors.

A police detective could read this book and not be annoyed by the procedure.

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (19th June 1930)

A new detective story from Mr. Connington is always welcome, and his admirers will have no cause for complaint, for Mr. Connington deals them full measure and they will be sure of an hour or two of unalloyed pleasure in his skilful presentation and analysis.  A rich, but unpleasant, businessman is found shot in a railway carriage.  He was bringing money from his office to his works in a neighbouring town; and it is soon ascertained that there was a discharged employee who owed him a grudge.  But that seems too obvious a scent.  How about the doctor who was in love with the murdered man’s wife and whose broken glasses were found in the compartment?  And what is the significance of the prize ram that was shot in the neighbourhood some days before?  The acute detective checks all the tickets issued with the passengers, but the title of the book shows that there is a leakage somewhere.  Mr. Connington may be trusted to leave no loose ends or unstopped holes.

Spectator (30th August 1930):

A manufacturer, by the name of Preston is found under the seat of a railway carriage, with bullets of two different calibres in his head.  His doctor is in love with Preston’s wife, and travelled by the same train on an errand faked by telegram typed in his own typewriter.  On the floor of the murdered man’s compartment is found a fragment of a spectacle lens belonging to the doctor, who also behaves suspiciously in not admitting having travelled by that train.  Did the doctor murder the manufacturer?  Obviously not, and neither did a clerk whom Preston had dismissed and who was found in possession of the notes which Preston was carrying at the time.  It was, of course, somebody whom it would be unfair to disclose.  Superintendent Ross is to be congratulated on his discrimination between suspects, and Mr. Connington on the competence with which the story is told.

NY Evening Post (Dashiell Hammett, 23rd August 1930, 80w):

An excellent straight detective story, empty of love interest or other matters extraneous to the plot.

Books (Will Cuppy, 17th August 1930, 250w):

Here’s quite an event, as events go in this business—a detective tale for the intelligent grown-up, by an author who can write…  The merit of the thing consists not in the strangeness of events, but in the way they’re done to a turn.

NY Times (Bruce Rae, 24th August 1930, 100w):

The book is excellently written, in Mr. Connington’s best manner, but it lacks flavour and suspense.

Outlook (W.R. Brooks, 27th August 1930, 120w):

Very satisfactory.

Sat R of Lit (W.C. Weber, 20th December 1930, 120w):

Mr. Connington’s ‘puzzle’ will baffle the keenest readers, although all the clues are laid on the table.  There have been few detective stories that read more like a page from real life than this one.

Hon. V. Sackville-West:

If you want a good, concise, well-written detective story read THE TWO TICKET PUZZLE by J. J. Connington for it is really a good one.

London Daily Mail:

For those who ask first of all in a detective story for exact and mathematical accuracy in the construction of the plot, there is no author to equal the distinguished scientist who writes under the name of J. J. Connington.  His latest story is the most complex and ingenious he has yet written.

London Daily Express:

Among detective stories I should confidently recommend ‘The Two Ticket Puzzle.’  It is tense and lucid from start to finish.

London Daily Herald:

‘The Two Ticket Puzzle’ makes its author’s already secure reputation doubly sure.  It leaves no shadow of doubt that Mr. Connington is one of the clearest and cleverest masters of detective fiction now writing.

London Morning Post:

It may sound strange, but it is true, that Mr. Connington’s ‘The Two Ticket Puzzle’ is so good as to leave little to be said about it.

London Daily News:

Mr. Connington’s method is deservedly famous…  This book is the Connington method to perfection.