E. R. PUNSHON – Mystery Villa. Detective Sergeant Bobby Owen #4. Gollancz, UK, hardcover, 1934. Penguin, UK, paperback, 1950. Dean Street Press, UK, trade paperback, 2015. No US edition.

   Written in the days when Sergeant Bobby Owen, Punshon’s long-running series character, was young and throbbing with ambition and energy, this small puzzle of the mysterious lady of Tudor Lodge is a tiny little mystery that grows and grows and grows.

   But slowly! It is fifty pages before Bobby finds reason enough to investigate within, and in doing so he widens the case forty or fifty years into the past – to a happy event that never took place, and to a murder that did.

   (Sorry to be so ambiguous. Pat of the soporific pleasure of reading this novel is just just being able to relax and let events flow over you, and I hope I haven’t already said too much and deprived you of that particular enjoyment.)

   The characters are nicely done – save Bobby – who has no personal life to speak of, and otherwise is described completely by the first sentence o this review. Outdated, but drawn with precision and care.

   It is the detective work that fails to hold up, beginning with a sloppy search of the house by the police themselves, and continuing on as Bobby completely forgets about one of the characters involved. And of course that person turns out to by the, um, well, yes, I shouldn’t even say that , should I?

   Overall, the worst crime a detective story can perpetrate is that of being unconvincing. What with faulty premises, unlikely motivations, and sheer, devout strongheadedness, well – it’s not really that bad, but …

–Very slightly revsed from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 6, Nov/Dec 1981.