Reviews by Allen J. Hubin.

   Of Lynton Blow I know absolutely nothing. The “Moth” Murder (Alexander-Ouseley, 1931; Holt, 1932) and The Bournewick Murders (Butterworth, 1935) appear to be the only traces he left in our criminous world, and they betray a fondness for plotting complexities and apparent impossibilities.

   Moth is perhaps the more interesting, and Bournewick the more baffling, though I found both quite pleasant British detection. In Bournewick Amelia Scott, an elderly though active woman living near the titular town, disappears; her strangled body turns up in due course. A suspect hoves into view, though the evidence is weakening; then he too is murdered.

   Another killing follows, and the Yard arrives in the person of Inspector Eldridge, who must tie together the multiple and seemingly unrelated murders and a mysterious mailbox fire, while the bodies continue to pile up: six die violently in this tale. Blow does break one of the cardinal rules of detective fiction here, but I found Bournewick sufficiently good that I can forgive him; the final resolution, though fanciful and not really of the fair-play variety, ties all together neatly.

   In Moth a burning plane crashes to earth near a coastguard station on Bournemouth Bay; the pilot, sole occupant, is burned to a crisp. Inquiries and an autopsy reveal that the victim is the famous airman, Charles Stafford, who took off with a female passenger (now vanished), and that the corpse died not of incineration but of a bullet in the brain.

   Inspector Hunt of the Yard also has other puzzles: a second plane, piloted by the wife of Stafford’s passenger, took off at the same time and vanished without a trace –- and a policeman was murdered on a rural road not far from the Stafford crash site on the same night. And more: Stafford’s heir turns up at the dead man’s home, stays a night, then disappears; there seems to be a curious link with a London drug gang; and then there’s that suitcase full of money…

   The U.S. dust jacket is criminally revealing, so avoid it, but not the book, which is fun 1930s reading.


   Frass by John Chancellor (Hutchinson, 1929) was my first exposure to the work of this author, who produced a number of novels in our genre from 1923 to 1970. Frass is a thriller, not a detective story; I can’t speak for any other of Chancellor’s fictions.

   Captain Frass left the sea, found a partner, and established a real estate business. But the captain was a bit naive: the residential plots his partner was peddling to earnest British burghers were just slightly offshore, and Frass spent a solo two years on the rockpile when the roof fell in.

   Now released, he’s approached by Roscoe Lengarde and his Prisoner’s Benevolent Society with an offer of employment. Frass resists for a while, then joins in; Lengarde has a nice smuggling scheme going, using pleasure vessels.

   Cracks rapidly develop in the operation, however: Frass discovers love, a conscience, a traitor in the ranks, and looming Excise men, in that sequence, and survival of the fittest becomes the order of the day. It will not surprise you to learn that the captain is quite fit (and survives for at least one sequel novel).

   This is competent crime-adventure, enlivened more than anything else by its subsidiary characters: the sniveling and cowardly Ginger Hoyst, the reliable follower Taunton, and the mad historian Peterson.


   NOTE: Go here for the previous installment of this column.

[EDITORIAL UPDATE.] 03-30-09. On the Yahoo “Golden Age of Detection” group, Juergen Lull points out that Lynton Blow’s The “Moth” Murder is available as an online etext at

   On the same venue, Doug Greene follows up with a comment, saying: “The Moth book seems to have been based on the famous disappearance over the channel of Alfred Loewenstein in 1928 — Darwin Teilhet used the same background in his Death Flies High (1931). The story can be followed in William Norris’s [non-fiction account of the mystery] The Man Who Fell from the Sky.”

   To this, Curt Evans adds the fact that Lynton Blow was a flight instructor, appropriately enough, verified by a search on Google and this page.