Here's a suggestion addressed to fictional British newspaper magnates of the 1930s (I know, a limited field). If you are sufficiently power-mad to manipulate public opinion with your newspaper to the point of forcing the British government to declare war on another nation, it is probably not a good idea to boast to your staff that you have made war inevitable and that the only way to derail the plan is to murder you...and then go off to your private office for a nap, leaving instructions that you should not be disturbed. Somebody is very likely to take you at your word.
In fact, that appears to be precisely what happens in Fatality in Fleet Street, by Christopher St. John Sprigg, a newly rediscovered gem originally published in 1933. It is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
Fatality in Fleet Street is set in what was then the near-future - 1938. England is on the verge of war - not with Germany, as you might expect, but with Soviet Russia. Lord Carpenter, the Governing Director of Affiliated Publications, has been using the power of his very popular newspapers to push for that war. It has reached the point of no return - Lord Carpeter is confident that war will break out with his publication of a final story.
But the story is never published, for Lord Carpenter is attacked and murdered while sleeping in his office - and the people who succeed Lord Carpenter, including the paper's editor, are opposed to war. So the crisis is averted - but police are left with a murder to solve. It is far from clear that the murder must have been based on the political situation and the war-or-peace struggle. There’s a pretty wide field of suspects – and, as the investigation progresses, it’s very clear that almost anyone could have done it. This is no locked-room mystery – if anything, the openness of the room where Lord Carpenter is murdered makes the case harder to solve than an "impossible crime" situation would have done. The solution follows some fairly surprising twists and it's satisfying.
Although he wrote seven mysteries during the Golden Age, I must admit that I had never heard of Christopher St. John Sprigg until I was sent a copy of Fatality in Fleet Street by the Oleander Press, which has reprinted it as one of its "London Bound" series of classic crime novels, taken mostly from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, the years between the first and second world wars. While the book seems a bit wordy to me - I think the editing could have been a bit tighter, though many of the subplots add to the fun - I do think it's a worthwhile and enjoyable read.