John Rother drove away from Chalklands Farm in Sussex for a short vacation - and promptly disappeared. His car turned up - with bloodstains - but there was no sign of John Rother - unless, of course, those stains were an ominous sign. Enter Superintendent Meredith - and the sinister discovery of human bones at Chalklands. Superintendent Meredith came to the not unreasonable conclusion that he was probably investigating a murder. You'll find the full story in The Sussex Downs Murder, a 1936 Golden Age mystery by John Bude. It's the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
John Bude (the pen name used by Ernest C. Elmore) was a prolific writer during and after that Golden Age of Detective Fiction we define as being, primarily, the period between the two world wars. The Sussex Downs Murder was his third book. Like almost all of Bude's books, this one has been out of print for many years and has been virtually unavailable. The British Library has now republished the book (to be released formally in the US next week) as part of its Crime Classics Series; the Poisoned Pen Press, which is publishing the series in the US, kindly provided me with a copy for this review.
When human bones begin appearing at construction sites around Chalklands Farm, Superintendent Meredith must try to determine if they are grim evidence of John Rother’s fate. The superintendent has a limited field of possible suspects – and, for quite a while, it is far from clear exactly what those suspects might have done, and why, and how. Meredith’s search for the truth is carefully laid out in a plot full of twists and surprises. It's part procedural - but also quite definitely a traditional, plot-driven mystery with interesting characters and a well-delineated setting - not to mention a challenge to the reader to solve the mystery before Meredith - "Not guess-work, mark you, but a certainty based on proven facts."
In an introduction to this new edition of The Sussex Downs Murder, mystery writer Martin Edwards calls the book "an ingenious and highly enjoyable detective novel." I couldn’t agree more. Edwards says that he suspects Bude may have more readers now than he did during that Golden Age. Let’s hope that readership continues to grow. The official publication date, according to Amazon's site, is May 5; your local bookseller, Amazon and others, will be happy to take orders now.
The 2015 Bingo Challenge
Continuing my participation in the 2015 Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge. under way at the My Reader's Block blog, The Sussex Downs Murder is my entry for the square (fifth row, sixth column) calling for one book written by an author with a pseudonym; as noted above, "John Bude" was the pen name of Ernest C. Elmore.
An Extra Challenge This Month
Rich Westwood, over at the very excellent Past Offenses blog, has challenged us to blog about a mystery this month that was published in the year 1936 - which, as it happens, was the publication year of The Sussex Downs Murder. This is my entry in that challenge.