Murder on the Bridge, published in 1930 (and also known as QED), is one of Lynn Brock’s Colonel Gore mysteries. It’s a bit of a hybrid but it’s not entirely lacking in interest.
I confess to knowing virtually nothing about Lynn Brock other than the fact that his real name was Alister McAllister, he was an Irishman and he served as an intelligence officer for the British in the First World War.
Murder on the Bridge opens with a fairly impressive murder on a suspension bridge in heavy fog. The bridge is a toll bridge and the toll collectors should have been aware of every car and pedestrian on the bridge at the time of the murder (traffic being rather light at night when the killing took place). Unfortunately due to the fog most of the potential eyewitnesses can give little useful information.
Dr Melhuish was a successful general practitioner in the major town of the fictional county of Westshire in the west of England. The murder seemed to be rather elaborately planned. No-one is able to suggest why anyone would want to go to so much trouble to kill a rather obscure country doctor.
There is one clue - an unfinished letter the deceased had been writing to Colonel Gore.
Colonel Gore is godfather to Dr Melhuish’s young son Simon although he seems to have been better acquainted with Mrs Melhuish than with her husband. Dr and Mrs Melhuish had been involved in a celebrated murder case a few years earlier in which Colonel Gore had gathered sufficient evidence against a notorious murderess to see her brought to trial but alas not enough evidence to get her convicted. This had unfortunately somewhat soured the Colonel’s hitherto friendly working relationship with Inspector Lord. Inspector Lord is now understandably reluctant to accept Colonel Gore’s speculations about this new murder case.
The plot will involve money-lending, disguises, American gangsters, South African diamonds, a Pekingese named Duggie and a wire-haired terrier. The Pekingese and the terrier will prove to be crucial witnesses.
Colonel Gore himself is an ex-army man who discovered that a fine wartime record provided him with few qualifications for peacetime employment. He has however managed to do quite well for himself as a private detective - he is now the principal of a rather successful detective agency, an agency that is prosperous enough to refuse the more sordid cases that such agencies are usually forced to undertake such as divorce work.
Colonel Gore is a typically English sort of private detective. He does not carry firearms and he is a long way from being a two-fisted hero. He does however manage to get himself beaten up rather badly on several occasions during the course of his investigation, this being one of the features of the book that make it a slightly unusual example of the English detective story of this era.
This is as I said earlier a kind of hybrid. The toner is mostly that of the classic golden age detective story and Colonel Gore is very much a typical detective hero of that school. The plot though, while it does include some real detection as Gore follows up various clues (such as a mysterious badge bearing the QED logo), is more of an amalgam of the police procedural, the Edgar Wallace-style thriller and the American hardboiled school.
The major fault of the plot is an excessive reliance on coincidence. The colourful characters, the rather high body count and the odd juxtaposition of American gangsters and a quintessentially English setting do however offer enough compensations to overcome this fault. It’s also amusing to see the American gangsters discovering that working the rackets in England is a lot more difficult than being a racketeer in New York.
Murder on the Bridge is an entertaining little book. Recommended.