● LEO BRUCE – Case for Three Detectives. Sgt. Beef #1. Academy Chicago Limited, paperback. First published in the UK, by Nicholson, hardcover, 1940. First US edition: Stokes, 1937.

● LEO BRUCE – Case with Ropes and Rings. Sgt. Beef #5. Academy Chicago Limited, paperback; 1st US edition, 1980. First published in the UK, by Nicholson, hardcover, 1940.

   Academy Chicago Limited, a publisher new to this reviewer, is reprinting the Sgt. Beef novels of Leo Bruce, pseudonym of Rupert Croft-Cooke. In paperback they are done up with classy art deco covers; very attractive. I wish I could say as much for the inside of the books.

   Case for Three Detectives allows us to see the village policeman, Sergeant Beef, beat three well~known amateur detectives at their own game. Lord Simon Plimsoll, accompanied by Butterfield; M. Amer Picon; and Monsigneur Smith, whom we all recognize, I’m sure, investigate the locked room murder of an inoffensive lady named Mrs. Thurston.

   The joke is that while they run around the country and theorize madly, Sgt. Beef is placidly collecting hard evidence which convicts the real killer. Picon has a Watson equal to anything Hastings could ever have been, a young man named Townsend who becomes Sgt. Beef’s amanuensis. As a take-off of three well-known mystery writers’ works, it’s fine. As a murder mystery for readers, it drags.

   Not as much as Case with Ropes and Rings, though. Here we must read of Townsend’s resentment against his now-famous detective friend. Beef is still a diamond in the rough, liking his beer and darts game and, according to Townsend, not fit for association with the upper classes. This case takes him to Penshurst School, where the youthful boxing champion has been found dead by hanging in the school gymnasium.

   As his father is a lord, Townsend worries that Beef will come a cropper. When another lad is found dead in the same way in a London gym noted for its rough characters, Townsend thinks that this is more suitable for Beef. Townsend can’t see any connection between the cases, but Beef insists there is one.

   We are treated to constant complaints from Townsend that the investigation isn’t moving fast enough. there’s not enough action, his book will be dull. He’s right. It is dull. Still, the solution is a neat one. One up to Beef for that.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 4, Number 5/6 (December, 1981). Permission granted by publisher/editor Jeff Meyerson.