Tuesday ’Tec! The Hampstead Murder by Christopher Bush

The perils of research…

Bit of a misnomer here, since this lovely little crime story doesn’t actually have a detective in it, but, since I can’t find an online copy, you’ll either have to get hold of the anthology it comes from, Bodies from the Library 3, or else you’ll have to detect the ending yourself! So don your deerstalker cap, light your pipe, and join me for this week’s…

Tuesday Tec2

The Hampstead Murder
by Christopher Bush

.

Christopher Bush

A man in Scotland wrote a letter to The Times and, by chance, The Times found it interesting enough to print. Because of that letter, which had nothing whatever to do with murder, a woman was strangled in a London suburb.

This excursion into how badly the most innocent action can go wrong starts with the ending – a woman found dead with a noose around her neck…

Then there was the woman, in a charming afternoon frock, with a face like a surprised Madonna and hair like an aureola . . . There was no blood, no signs of a struggle. No vulgarity, but everything quiet and restrained, except for that deadly circle around her neck.

There is however someone else in the room – the murderer himself…

… a quiet man, writing peacefully at a Queen Anne bureau.

We are then taken back to the beginning of the story, where we meet a man with the delightful if unlikely name of Lutley Prentisse…

In front of his swivel chair were table and typewriter but he sat there with the tip of his fingers together and his brow wrinkled in thought. You would have needed no particular shrewdness to have guessed that he was a writer.

He is married to Dorothy, a glittering beauty keen on sports and with a competitive streak – an unlikely partner for the more intellectually-minded Lutley. He loves her even although her energy makes him feel tired, but her feelings are harder to read…

In public a softly murmured “Darling!” and a playful tap are no particular signs, especially when the other hand holds a liqueur glass drained for the eighth time.

Lutley has written three novels, with some critical and even commercial success. Now he has taken a flat to finish his new book while Dorothy is away looking after her seriously ill sister. Just as he is feeling quite happy with his work, he notices a letter in The Times which rather upsets him.

A policeman had written rather indignantly on the treatment of his profession by writers of detective novels, The police, he affirmed, were treated like buffoons and authors rarely troubled to make themselves familiar with the real workings of either Scotland Yard or the C.I.D. departments of provincial forces.

This bothers Lutley, because his new novel contains a section relating to a private detective agency, and he realises he has never in fact had any experience of a real one. So he decides to put this right by visiting an agency, pretending to be a client. Once in the detective’s office, he realises that of course he needs to give him something to investigate. On the spur of the moment he thinks of his friend Peter Claire and, smiling to himself at the thought of telling Peter all about it later, asks the detective to follow him…

“Just a report in confidence, by Monday, of what he does from now until then. You can manage that?”

* * * * *

So now you should be able to guess who was murdered, who murdered her, and why…

This is a lot of fun – not too difficult to see what the outcome is, I think, but written with a lot of sly humour about the perils of being a novelist. Despite the corpse in the room, the ending made me laugh – a very neat little twist. The moral of the story, I suspect, is that too much research can be as problematic as too little, and I’m sure most of my writing pals would probably agree with that! Christopher Bush is one of the vintage authors who’s enjoying a revival at the moment, though I haven’t read any of his novels yet – I hope to rectify that soon. His story is one of the highlights from this anthology, which I’ll review in full at a later date.

* * * * * * *

Little Grey Cells rating: ❓ ❓ ❓

Overall story rating:      😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

(Poirot worked it out easily, of course – did you?)

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

22 thoughts on “Tuesday ’Tec! The Hampstead Murder by Christopher Bush

  1. Oh, this does sound like fun, FictionFan! And sometimes those stories that begin with the murder and then go back to ‘how it all began’ are really intriguing. When they’re done well, they take you right into the action. I like the writing style of this one, too. And the guy’s a writer, too – what more to want?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, I loved all his sly jokes about novel-writing! And although the story was fairly obvious, the fun was all in the way he told it. These anthologies are great for getting a taste of an author’s style. He was already on my radar but this bumped him up to near the top! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  2. My grey cells are usually lacking in that I often struggle to figure things out. Of course I have to suspect anyone with the unfortunate name of Lutley Prentisse. (hoping I’m not offending any real Lutleys out there!) I have one of these anthologies on my wishlist, but I’m think its cover is yellow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s very rare for me to get a solution too, and when I do I always ending up feeling that must mean the story wasn’t very good! 😉 I’ve never met a Lutley – how do they come up with these names?? The one with the yellow cover is much better overall than this one, so stick with it! This one is more mixed – some good, some a bit blah…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the sound of this one! And I think I’ve guessed the ending already, but still, half the fun is getting there. And I love books that make fun of writers, it’s typically the sign of an author having a great sense of humour, which I always appreciate.

    Liked by 2 people

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