Brian Flynn’s Fear and Trembling is an entertaining murder mystery with perhaps a bit more of the procedural about it than most of the books I read. Its primary strength is the personality of our Detective Anthony Bathurst who approaches his job with nary a hint of the tortured mentality afflicting so many brilliant sleuths. Seeing him in action (or better yet, subterfuge) is pleasurable–a very welcome element during some of the more unimportant scenes of encountering dead ends.
The Problem: After we are witness to a mysterious meeting between David Summerset and a sinister syndicate (the only moment Bathurst is absent from the narrative), Summerset and his son Geoffrey are found dead in a copse. Summerset was shot in the head with the same gun he his still holding and Geoffrey was bashed in the skull. Obviously a murder-suicide.
The Investigation: FaT takes its time laying clues. Indeed, most of the first half consists solely of red herrings. This strategy is bolstered by the time frame — the investigation takes quite a while off the page with two weeks passing between two of the chapters. In addition to discovering an unlikely crime scene, Bathurst draws out a representative (a real femme fatale) from the syndicate through the use of adverts. The volleys between Bathurst and the woman are a highlight of the narrative. Neither knows how much the other knows (or anything at all really), and the way they gingerly mine one another can only be described as playfully dangerous flirting.
The Solution: It’s not incredibly difficult to reach the solution of the murder. I suppose any problems you will have depends on how strict you are about the abilities of the police being accurately represented in a murder mystery. For writing purposes, I’ve done a bit of research into investigatory science circa 1930, and I’m quite confident this would not work. That being said, do you really care that much. There’s a lot of satisfaction to the denouement, none of which requires you to put on your thinking cap.
All in all, FaT is a fun read, and I look forward to my next Flynn. We can thank The Puzzle Doctor for his efforts in making Brian Flynn available. You can read about it in detail here.
So, 2020 is over. I didn’t read nearly as much as I should have (wanted to), but there was a lot of quality. The Red Right Hand and Madball were deliriously nutty noirs that I read in a day. There was plenty of Carr to cover including She Died a Lady, The Crooked Hinge, The Nine Wrong Answers, The Corpse in the Waxworks, and the incomparable Till Death Do us Part. And I got a real kick out of The Poisoned Chocolates Case, The Honjin Murders, and The Fourth Door.
And yes, I managed to publish book three. The reception to The Strange Case of the Barrington Hills Vampire has been heartening to say the least. It’s definitely the most well-liked of my novels and its sales have already surpassed The Opening Night Murders with Goodnight Irene‘s cume well within its sights. As always, I don’t know what the future will bring, but I hope to continue writing murder mysteries as long as people want to read them.
Thank you for buying, sharing, and recommending. Have a wonderful New Year.