Looking for a classic Golden Age mystery with fair (and rather prolific) clues, interesting characters, good detective work, and even an intelligent "Watson" to help the detective? Let me suggest "The Tau Cross Mystery," by J. J. Connington, the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the full review by clicking here.
This 1935 classic by Connington, an author sadly neglected today despite having written about two dozen very good traditional mysteries, examines the murder of an unknown man in a deserted apartment. The local chief constable, Sir Clinton Driffield, and his good friend, Squire Wendover, are confronted with plenty of clues, none of which seems sufficient to make clear what happened here. Among other clues, the investigators find a bloody handkerchief, an extra pair of shoes, a spilled pot (can) of paint, a corpse wearing rubber gloves...and a small gold ornament, shaped like the Greek letter "T," or Tau - a Tau cross. It is up to Driffield's investigators to find out who was murdered, how - and, of course, why.
The astute reader may well figure out the solution before the end of the book, as the clues, when properly interpreted, certainly point in one direction - but that really doesn't detract at all from the reader's enjoyment of this book. The characters are fascinating and, for the most part, quite well rounded, Sir Clinton is quite smart, but, for once, so is his friend and assistant, Squire Wendover, who may not grasp the significance of all the clues as quickly as Driffield but who can still provide some occasionally surprising insight into the real course of events.
Most of Connington's books remain out of print, but Coachwhip Publications has re-issued three of them, including "The Tau Cross Mystery," in trade paperback print-on-demand editions, all of which feature a first-rate introduction by Curtis Evans. He says, in his introduction, that "The Tau Cross Mystery" and the other two books "should give considerable enjoyment to mystery readers of today, just as they did with mystery readers of the Golden Age." I quite agree.