Wilbury Larkin certainly was a bully. But was he a murderer - or a murderee? Larkin was traveling on board the cargo ship Saragossa from Tangier on his way back to England in order to meet with police, who thought Larkin might have murdered someone. But Larkin disappeared overboard one stormy night at sea, after having totally alienated every other passenger (not to mention the crew) on the ship with his rude and thoroughly offensive behavior. He even left a suicide note. So why did people think that he may have been murdered?
That's the initial problem in Dead Man's Shoes, a 1958 mystery by Leo Bruce. It's the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
It seemed highly improbable to anyone who knew Wilbury Larkin that he would commit suicide. It also seemed improbable that he really could have committed that murder the police wanted to talk to him about. So, while the police appear to be quite satisfied that Larkin’s apparent suicide also clears up that earlier murder, friends and family of the victim are not at all satisfied. And so they ask Carolus Deene, a schoolteacher and ex-commando with a fair amount of crime-solving experience, to use his upcoming vacation from his teaching position to do his own investigating of the whole affair.
Deene agrees. He takes one of his students, a rather obnoxious young man named Rupert Priggley, with him as an assistant of sorts. And they follow a series of clues that lead from England to Tangier and back again. It is a dangerous journey for Deene, but ultimately he is able to sort out the many inconsistencies and oddities in the story of the murder and the apparent suicide and bring the case to a genuinely shocking conclusion.
The books featuring Carolus Deene make up the second series written by Leo Bruce, another once-popular and now unjustly obscure author of traditional, plot-oriented mysteries. His first series, featuring the stolid, unimaginative - but generally correct and successful where others fail - Sergeant Beef is a delight. The Carolus Deene books are somewhat darker than that early series, but they are cleverly written and generally quite full of twists and surprises. That's certainly true of Dead Man's Shoes, and I recommend it heartily.
The 2015 Bingo Challenge
Continuing my participation in the 2015 Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge. under way at the My Reader's Block blog, Dead Man's Shoes is my entry for the square (sixth row, fourth column) calling for one book written by an author whose first or last name begins with the same letter as mine - in this case both the L of Leo and the B of Bruce.