B[asil] G[odfrey] QUIN – The Death Box. Hon. James Clarkson-Parry #1. Hutchinson, UK, hardcover, 1929. Associated Newspapers, UK, hardcover reprint, date? Greenberg, US, hardcover, 1932.

   When Charles Harvey sees Clarkson-Perry, a man’s man and his former wartime commander, at a golf tournament in the morning, he hardly expects to be hired on as his assistant after dinner that evening in the latter’s home. His “Watson,” in other words, as Clarkson-Perry is now an elite private investigator. The comparison is apt. Both men are bachelors, and in the case that follows, Clarkson-Perry has plenty of opportunity to display his ability at deductive reasoning in pure Holmesian fashion.

   It’s quite a case, too. Their client has overheard a group of hooded men meeting in an isolated building on his property, with a mysterious box apparently their primary reason for their having been called together in such a strange ceremony. When one of the men tries to make off with the box, their client ends up with it, but when they go to see it, they find their client dead, and the box missing.

   Complicating matters is a matter of diamonds that are also not in the safe that was opened, and (whew) they discover that the client’s secretary is actually a notorious jewel thief. This not the only surprise in store for them in the case, as far as twists and turns in the plot, including other false identities and mysterious intruders in the night.

   It’s quite a package, indeed, the plot outwardly consisting of out-and-out thriller material, but in essence, a well-constructed detective story, with a rather unexpected killer brought to justice at the end, done in by reconstructing various conflicting facts along the way and the working out of a detailed timetable of events.

   I’d happily read another in the series, but this is the only one that’s at all easy to find. One of the others below can be found offered for sale online, but only in the $150 range. The other two apparently no longer exist.

         The James Clarkson-Parry series —

The Death Box. Hutchinson 1929.
The Murder Rehearsal. Hutchinson 1931.
Mistigris. Hutchinson 1932.
The Phantom Murderer. Hutchinson 1932.