‘Information Received,’ by E. R. Punshon

It’s a good day when I discover a mystery writer who a) I like, b) has a lot of books available, and c) comes cheap in Kindle format. And so I present to you, for the first time at Brandywine Books, the classic English detective novelist E. R. Punshon.

Punshon was admired by no less a figure than Dorothy Sayers, who saw his work as a positive development, helping to move the English mystery beyond the confines of the cozy “puzzle” story. Judging by Information Received, his first Bobby Owen mystery, she was correct. There’s a little more of real life here, and some fair psychology.

Constable Bobby Owen is a young London policeman, walking a beat. He actually attended Oxford, but his grades were lackluster, and so he sort of drifted into being a “bobby,” though he’s found the work pretty tedious thus far.

That all changes one day when he’s standing across the street from the home of a City magnate, Sir Christopher Clarke. Sir Christopher has been found shot to death, and Bobby gets just a glimpse of a man running away from the scene, though he can’t catch him.

Among the detectives who come in to look over the scene is Superintendent Mitchell, who takes a liking to the bright young policeman and allows him to help with the investigation. The motive seems unclear, the suspects seem to have little to gain, and means and opportunity are hard to sort out. But they work at it doggedly and in the end all his revealed.

The “fair psychology” I praised in this book does not apply to the murder itself, or the suspects, who are pretty melodramatic and not highly believable. But the relationship between Bobby and Supt. Mitchell is fascinating to follow. The older man guides Bobby, helps him sharpen his thinking, and exploits his talents, but all with a bemused and dryly playful air. He’s happy to give the young chap a career break, but he expects some entertainment along the way in the form of teasing him and testing his limits.

I enjoyed Information Received very much, and recommend it. I’d never heard of Punshon before I bought this book, but I’ve already bought the second work in the series.

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