Case Without a Corpse (Leo Bruce)

  • By Leo Bruce
  • First published: UK: Geoffrey Bles, 1937; US: Frederick A. Stokes, 1937

Bruce’s second book, and not as good as Case for Three Detectives.  It lacks the wit and flair of that little masterpiece, possibly Inspector Stute seems to be a spoof of Inspector French, with his passion for ‘Order—Method’ and drawing up time-tables.  The book is rather long drawn out (nearly 300 pages).  The solution is clever, if predictable, and it is one of those plots which hinge on the victim’s stupidity. Would anyone confess to murder to a policeman, as a practical joke – particularly if they were involved in smuggling? Surely this would draw unwanted attention.


1937 Geoffrey Bles

Murder mysteries, both in fiction and in fact, generally start with the discovery of a murder and proceed, swiftly or slowly, to the identification of the murderer. In Leo Bruce’s ingenious story the process is reversed, for we have the confession of the murderer long before his victim can be found.

And you will be glad to hear that this peculiar case is in the large and capable hands of Sergeant Beef, the hero of Case for Three Detectives.

1937 Frederick A. Stokes (US)

With the deft touch and sharp insight into crime which brought his first novel, A Case for Three Detectives instant attention from critics and public alike – Leo Bruce builds here a highly original mystery novel which is on a par with Ellery Queen, Dorothy Sayers and S. S. Van Dine.

Reversing the usual mystery formula of a body minus a murderer, Leo Bruce starts with the murderer and creates thrill after thrill in seeking the body. Reversing, too, the emphasis on complicated Scotland Yard, G-Man and French methods, he places all his clues in the hands of the reader, then solves the crime through applied commonsense in so ingenious a way that the reader is dumbfounded.

The police of three countries are involved, and Sergeant Beef, who won instant popularity in A Case for Three Detectives, appears again in CASE WITHOUT A CORPSE. And again, as in his previous book, Leo Bruce has created something baffling, originally new and well worth while in the mystery field.


Evening News: Mr. Bruce has provided an extraordinarily good tale and, what is more, he has written it extremely well. Case Without a Corpse should be read and enjoyed by all; it would be a pity to miss so clever a story.

Saturday Review: Top-notch.

William Lyon Phelps: Wholly original, brilliant.

Boston Evening Transcript: Fever heat to the last.

A Catalogue of Crime (Barzun & Taylor, 1989): J.B., who has become something of a Beef fancier, recommended this, and his collaborator found it highly enjoyable.  Only by a trick can the case actually be said to lack a corpse, but the tale is well told, and Beef justifies his brawn.