Dead Man’s Shoes (Leo Bruce)

  • By Leo Bruce
  • First published: UK: Peter Davies, 1958; US: Academy Chicago, 1987

Hurl this one overboard; the plot is blatantly plagiarised from Carter Dickson‘s Nine – and Death Makes Ten.


1958 Peter Davies

Carolus Deene, the inimitable schoolmaster-detective, is at his brilliant best in solving this, his fifth murder-case. Assisted, or hampered, by his ‘Watson’ – the insufferably precocious schoolboy, Rupert Priggley – he succeeds in unmasking the perpetrator of what had seemed to be the ‘perfect’ murder. Everyone knew there had been a murder, but everyone knew who the murderer was, and when this murderer committed suicide by jumping overboard – or was he thrown overboard? – from the cargo boat Saragossa as she sailed to London from the North African and Spanish ports, they thought: ‘Good riddance to bad rubbish’, and everyone, the Police included, dropped the case. Everyone but Carolus Deene.

The fast-moving scenes are set in Newminster, 36 miles from London, in Tangier, in Spain, on board the Saragossa. Humour, as always with the cases of Carolus Deene, is there in plenty; gems of character – even for Leo Bruce – are created in Socker, the lecherous game-keeper, and the tall, thin but masterly Mrs. Hoppy who never lets anyone finish a question… But in Dead Man’s Shoes the humour is subsidiary to the excitement. This is an edge-of-the-chair whodunit.


Manchester Guardian (Francis Iles, 6th June 1958): More English is Dead Man’s Shoes, by Leo Bruce, with the schoolmaster detective Carolus Deene and his horrifically sophisticated schoolboy Watson: not so good perhaps as Mr. Bruce’s earlier books, but pleasant entertainment for all that.