The Three Corpse Trick (Miles Burton)

By Miles Burton

First published: UK, Collins, 1944

The “trickiest” Burton I’ve read. Although Street is often accused of lacking any gift for characterisation and of being painfully slow, the characters in this book are sharply drawn, and suspicion so evenly distributed that the reader will find it very difficult to spot the culprit. The plot constantly unfolds to reveal new vistas of complexity, with more mystification than other Street books: the solution is a brilliant surprise. Masterpiece.

Blurb (UK)

On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 7th, Wendy Burge takes the bus from the county town of Deaning in Deanshire to the outlying village of Goose Common, where until recently she lived with her husband Peter, to make her usual collection for the Deanshire County Hospital.  From this journey she never returns.  Her body is found the next day floating in the River Lure by a market-gardener of the name of Ezra Robbins.  The local police call in the yard, and Inspector Arnold, accompanied by his friend Desmond Merrion, go down to investigate.  The Three Corpse Trick is a first-rate detective story with a really mystifying plot, some excellent character studies and a highly satisfying solution.

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (Maurice Willson Disher, 26th August 1944): As the title promises The Three Corpse Trick is thoroughly complicated.  Where the River Lure flows through Goose Common a married woman of blameless life and no criminal associations is found battered and drowned.  No whys and wherefores are discovered, but while the search for them is being made clues keep cropping up for other crimes.  “Excuse me, sir,” says the Scotland Yard detective pathetically, “but the job I was sent on was to investigate the murder of Mrs. Burge,” and he has every right to sympathy until three or four pages before the end.  Then Mr. Burton unravels the whole knot with one tug at the string.  It is a splendid demonstration how this particular trick should be done.