William F. Deeck

J. J. CONNINGTON Death at Swaythling Court

J. J. CONNINGTON – Death at Swaythling Court. Little Brown, US, hardcover, 1926. First published in the UK by Ernest Benn, hardcover, 1926. Penguin, UK, paperback in jacket, 1938.

   In the usually quiet village of Femhurst Parva, one Hubbard, butterfly collector and blackmailer, has, according to a coroner’s jury, committed suicide.

   Outside the jury his death creates many questions. Who stabbed him after he poisoned himself, if he did indeed poison himself? Who used a candle and for what in a well-lighted room? Who stole a butterfly?

   There are too many clues, all of which seem to point in different directions. And don’t forget the local inventor’s Death Ray, the village legend of the “Green Devil,” who apparently is keeping up with the times by using the telephone, and the Invisible Man.

   This is a splendid example of the English-village novel. The characterization doesn’t go deep, particularly with Colonel Sanderstead, who investigates, but then he isn’t deep. The fair play promised by the author is here, and I’ll brag and say I got about two-thirds of it right. Fine stuff from the Golden Age.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 2, Spring 1991.

Editorial Note: On the occasion of three of J. J. Connington’s mysteries having recently been reprinted by Coachwhip Publications, Curt Evans wrote a long article about the author and the three books and posted it on his blog. Check it out here.