The Plumley Inheritance – Christopher Bush
Charlie Christmas “Christopher” Bush is a new writer to me, although as a prolific author of murder mystery stories, he published 63 all featuring Ludovic Travers, his amateur sleuth, and Inspector Wharton, there is more than enough to keep me going for quite a while. Bush did not stop there, penning several mysteries under the noms de plume of Michael Home and Noel Barclay. A schoolteacher by profession, after distinguished service in the First World War rising to the rank of Major, his early novels were written in his spare time before his success convinced him to write full-time. He is another of those writers whose popularity has waned but, thanks to Dean Street Press, his books are being reissued to be discovered by a modern audience.
There is always a difficult choice when picking up a new writer, whether to start with those works that have received particular critical acclaim or to plough through the books in chronological order. I have chosen the latter option and The Plumley Inheritance is his first, published in 1926. Travers is not an ordinary amateur sleuth, preferring to rely upon the sharpness of his brain, honed up into a formidable weapon by completing the crosswords in the Times and Telegraph. In this book, Travers does not even take centre stage, leaving his pal Geoffrey Wrentham to do much of the leg work.
In many ways the plot is straightforward. Henry Plumley is a financier who is facing financial ruin. While making a political speech in a public meeting he commits suicide, choosing to direct some obscure remarks towards his son just before the bitter end. It leads to the theory that Plumley has salted much of his personal fortune away to keep it out of the hands of his creditors, but where is it? And what has a list of eccentric items he had asked Wrentham to assemble some months earlier have to do with it all. Of course, they hold the key to the mystery.
There are different groups plotting to reveal the secret of Plumley’s lolly, leading to the murder of one of Plumely’s secretaries, thwarted plans and aspirations and much nocturnal rummaging in flower beds at Plumley’s country home. Set shortly after the end of the First World War, telephones are in short supply and bicycles are the preferred means of transport. It is a world away from the tech-reliant modern thrillers.
Wrentham is the all-action hero and seems to have stepped out of the pages of a PG Wodehouse novel, his language peppered with the sort of upper-class slang you would expect to hear from Bertie Wooster. While Wrentham leads the charge, Travers lurks in the background but it is clear that he has the brains to match his colleague’s brawn. I assume that as the series progresses, Travers will come into the fore and Wrentham will make a graceful exit stage left.
I enjoyed Bush’s style which keeps the story moving and it has enough excitement and danger to keep the reader on their toes and entertained. Although fairly clued and the number of possible suspects limited, the denouement comes as a bit of a surprise, a letter revealing all. I had not worked it all out by the time the truth was revealed, which added to my enjoyment of the book.
I will look forward to reading the next Travers mystery.