|1945 - Dover republication 1985|
This rare volume, unavailable since its original publication in 1945, offers the avid fan a delightful example of detective fiction at its very best. Using the pen name R.T. Campbell, the eminent art critic, poet and fantasy novelist Ruthann Campbell Todd (1914-1978) wrote a series of mysteries featuring a unique hero, the inimitable amateur sleuth Professor John Stubbs.
The lovable professor is a blustering old botanist from Scotland whose only vice, besides being a bit gruff with incompetent inspectors, is a tendency to drink a trifle too many pints of English bitter. The old bachelor's confessed love for a good "pub crawl" is almost as well known as his incredible, though unorthodox, methods of detection.
In this, one of Stubbs's first adventures, cyanide kills an infamous fraud, Dr. Ian Porter, at a formal congress of geneticists. Any one of a dozen vindictive former assistants or humiliated colleagues could have committed the gruesome deed. Of course, the village police are completely befuddled, and even the professor, who never makes a secret of his likes and dislikes, becomes a prime suspect. Eager to solve the crime before an innocent scientist hangs, Professor Stubbs launches his own unofficial investigation.
His deductive powers meet a formidable challenge in the diverse collection of colorful suspects. The brash American, Dr. Swartz; the victim's sniveling colleague, Professor Silver; and the lovely young genetics student, Miss Mary Lewis, are just three possibilities - not to mention the professor's own nephew, a reporter covering the genetics congress. A brisk pace and witty dialogue make this an exciting and amusing page-turner right up to the dramatic finale when the professor cleverly traps the murderer with a dangerous but ingenious ploy.
This was a good solid read! I enjoyed the banter between characters and the descriptions of sounds. Dr. Stubbs is a great, fun character. Always messy, very large, always filling his pipe, putting away more beer than you would think a man could and still walk! Best of all he was always carrying around a detective novel in his pocket. John Dickson Carr was the one he was reading in this book, Edgar Wallace got a mention too.
Dr. Stubbs had always wanted to have a chance to try his hand at detecting as his favorite past-time was reading detective novels. With his current read being a Dickson Carr he was all up on locked room mysteries but this murder was the exact opposite of that, anyone of a couple thousand people could have done it!
"As a reader of detective stories I know all about the murder done in the room where only the victim could have been - all bolts fastened on the inside - and where every suspect has a seemingly perfect alibi. This case was the exact opposite of the closed box mystery. Here anyone could have done the murder and we had to make up our minds to which people, out of the odd two thousand attending' this Congress, could have done it."
Some quotes from the book...
"Suddenly there was a mild earthquake in my neighborhood and, looking over the top of my paper I saw that I had been joined by my uncle. His gray hair looked as if it had been skillfully tangled by a bevy of kittens, and his short pipe was sending out a positive smokescreen."
"My uncle held up a hand like a policeman and his questions rumbled in his throat like distant thunder, 'What time would this be?'"
"He seemed to be talking to himself. I delivered my message about allowing no one into the room and he moved towards the door. He took his short pipe out of one pocket and a piece of thick brown twist and a penknife out of the other. He appeared to be thinking deeply as he stuck the empty pipe in his mouth and shredded the tobacco into the palm of his hand. He clicked the knife shut and rubbed the brown curls between his palms. Taking the pipe from his mouth he tilted the tobacco into it, cleaning out the crevices between the fingers of his left hand with his right forefinger. He lighted his pipe and sucked strongly. He did not say anything. I knew that he was wondering whether this was going to be a difficult murder to solve and whether he could solve it. He was already seeing himself as the great detective."
"All this time Silver had said nothing, but had remained at the door trembling. Suddenly he started to speak quickly, and his voice was like the sound of nutmegs being grated."
If you get a chance to get a hold of an R.T. Campbell, DO!
This book counts for Vintage Scavenger Hunt 2016 Gold - Town Scene on the cover as well as Read Scotland 2016