H. C. BAILEY – The Red Castle Mystery. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1932. First published in the UK as The Red Castle: Ward Lock, hardcover, 1932.

    Introducing (*) lawyer Joshua Clunk, who daringly skirts the edge of the law but, unlike Perry Mason, knowingly takes the cause of the underworld. His problem here is to find the connection between the death of a client, a London fence found face down in the contents of a smashed bottle of leeches, and the disappearance of the ten year old heir to an ancient family castle in Strathland.

    Clunk is an annoying giggler with fluttering hands, addicted to sweets and hymn singing, filled with the kind of religious fervor you would not think compatible with one of his profession.

    Lots of false trails along the way, and ominous hints that people aren’t telling all they know. The great number of shady characters involved tends to overwhelm the plot and in fact produces most of the mystery, one that a good scorecard would help keep straight.

    Good reading on an idle summer’s day. May the quiet misty countryside of the rugged English moors always exist!

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 1, No. 5, September 1977.

(*) It appears I was in error about this. The first Joshua Clunk novel was The Garston Murder Case (its US title), published in 1930. See H. C. Bailey’s Wikipedia entry for more on the author and a long list of the mystery fiction he wrote.