J. J. CONNINGTON – Tom Tiddler’s Island. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hardcover, 1933. US title: Gold Brick Island. Little Brown & Co., hardcover, 1933. Coachwhip Publications, softcover, 2015. Also currently available on Kindle and other devices, and online here.

   J. J. Connington was best known for his novels about sleuth Sir Clinton Driffield and his science fiction novel Nordeholt’s Millions, but he wrote a number of non-series mysteries as well, such as this entertaining old fashioned tale of skullduggery and “doings” on the island of Ruffa (think Uffa).

   Colin and Jean Trent are a likable pair of newlyweds who have come to the island for their honeymoon, but soon find there is more than meets the eye going on. There’s the mysterious Mr. Northfleet, a bird watcher who seems to be avoiding them and who could not possibly be the Northfleet Colin knows who is a chemist and no ornithologist; Hazel Arrow, whose uncle lives on the island; the unfriendly Professor Leven who has his place fortified; and four rather unpleasant gentlemen of criminal demeanor, Haws, Natorp, Leo, and Scarry.

   Then there’s the mysterious Mr. Wenlock.

   First a wounded man shows up then disappears, then Colin and Jean meet Mr. Northfleet, who turns out to be his chemist friend and none to happy to see him, then there is a cryptogram to be solved, and on top of that Hazel and Jean are captured and held by the four mysterious ruffians and Professor Leven shows no interest in helping.

   Connington is largely forgotten today, and in fairness the Driffield saga ran out of steam long before he stopped writing them, but he was at his best a nimble spinner of tales who could build to a nice chase or bit of skullduggery along with the clueing, and had a pleasant and highly readable style when he chose to.

   This one has movie written all over it, and it’s a shame it was never adapted. It has all the elements of mystery, adventure, and chase that make for a pleasant read on a rainy afternoon, a quality the genre has largely lost since the end of WW II.

   Alchemy and making gold out of base metals is involved, and more science than magic is at the heart of it all with good detection by Northfleet, and Colin and Jean likable Watson’s, and some improbable but delightful action contributed by the good guys and just reward for the bad guys, which is all you can ask of a pleasant afternoon’s reading. Throw in an attractive setting well rendered, a bit of weather, and you have the makings for a pleasant diversion with just enough detective element to fit the bill.