A group of people go for a holiday trip on their bicycles for a lengthy cycling tour in the Wye Valley, near the English border with Wales. At one point, they wind up separated from each other as they coast down a long, twisting and particularly steep hill. But when they have reached the bottom and gather together again, they find one of their party is missing. And when that person turns up dead in a nearby quarry, nearly everyone is shocked.
That's the basic situation in Dead Man's Quarry, a mystery from the heart of the Golden Age, by Ianthe Jerrold. The book is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the complete review by clicking here.
In Dead Man's Quarry, we are introduced to a young man named Charles Price, who has recently returned from Canada after inheriting his family's baronetcy. He is not a particularly likeable person, showing a capacity for being both boorish and somewhat thuggish, but his family is trying to get to know him better. When Charles disappears on that bicycle ride, there is concern among other members of the touring group, who are all either family members or friends of the family. But then, Charles's body turns up - and it would appear that his death can not have been an accident.
Enter Ianthe Jerrold's amateur detective, John Christmas. He and his cousin, the supremely unimaginative scientist, Sydenham Rampson (what a great name!), had met the touring party on the road, and happened to be in the area when Charles died. Christmas and Rampson decide to stay in the area and help with the investigation of the murder. As it happens, all the evidence appears to point to a single individual as the culprit, and the police are quite satisfied with making an arrest – but Christmas is not satisfied and – despite his cousin’s desire for them both to return to London – the two men stay and begin doing some detective work. And, it turns out to be a very good thing that they did.
Ianthe Jerrold is another of the fine Golden Age authors now being rescued from undeserved obscurity by publishers such as Dean Street Press. Jerrold was mostly a “mainstream” author, but two of her early mysteries – the only ones she published under her own name – were good enough to earn her a place in the prestigious Detection Club, that organization of fine British mystery writers. Dead Man's Quarry is the second of those mysteries. The first, The Studio Crime, was reviewed here (albeit briefly!) last year. The Dean Street Press editions of both of these books feature introductions by mystery historian Curtis Evans.