The influential art critic, Mr. Alfred John Atts, has disappeared under rather peculiar circumstances. It seems that he had been expected to give a public lecture on art in which he promised to make sensational revelations, though nobody knew what he was talking about. But instead of giving that lecture, Mr. Atts disappeared. This would prove to be something of a headache for Deputy Commander Bobby Owen of Scotland Yard. And the complications growing out of that disappearance became more sensational the deeper Owen got into the case. All the details, fortunately, are preserved for us in Triple Quest, by E.R. Punshon. Originally published in 1955, Triple Quest is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
As a member of England's prestigious Detection Club, E.R. Punshon was praised highly by such literary figures as Dorothy L. Sayers and Anthony Boucher. From the 1930s into the 1950s, he wrote nearly three dozen books featuring Bobby Owen, who began the series as a lowly constable but rose to wind up as Deputy Commander. The books are generally traditional mysteries, with an emphasis on the puzzles, but a lot of them also have distinctly thriller-ish plots. That's certainly true of Triple Quest.
Triple Quest begins with Bobby Owen sitting in his office at Scotland Yard, listening to a very peculiar story brought to him by a private investigator with the wonderful name of Marmaduke Groan. Mr. Groan, whose ethics are somewhat shady at best, is concerned over the disappearance of Mr. Atts. It seems that Groan has been doing a little snooping on Mr. Atts’ behalf, looking into possible infidelities on the part of Mrs. Atts – and, at the same time, keeping an eye on similar infidelities of Mr. Atts himself. In any case, Mr. Atts has disappeared without settling his bill with Mr. Groan,who is now offering information to Scotland Yard – in the hopes of getting some reward money somewhere down the line.
It doesn't take very long for things to get pretty well out of hand, with a couple of murders looming on the horizon. It all seems to center around a small but incredibly valuable painting by the Dutch master Rembrandt, which hangs on a wall in London’s prestigious (and fictional) South Bank Art Gallery. The painting, called “Girl Peeling Apples,” has been the subject of a long-simmering dispute between Atts and the gallery’s director, Sir Walter Welton. Bobby Owen, by the way, very much admires that painting, and his knowledge of the painting and its history will be critical to his finding the ultimate solution. For those rumors in the art world about efforts to steal the painting may have some basis in truth.
In Triple Quest, readers will find an intricate plot and a tantalizing puzzle. There are plenty of suspects – but what is it that they are suspected of doing, exactly? Bobby Owen will peel away the layers of the mystery – and there will be some very thriller-like scenes and twists that should be very pleasing to the reader. Triple Quest is back in print after many years, thanks to the small publishing firm of Ramble House, and it's a great deal of fun.