This is book 9 in the Ludovic Travers series and was given to me by my Secret Santa this Christmas. I had a rocky start with Bush when I first tried his work with The Case of the Platinum Blonde (1944), but thankfully things really improved with Dancing Death (1931), which is a Christmas country house mystery. Today’s read is another holiday mystery of sorts, with important events occurring in and around April Fool’s Day, as the title denotes.
Ludovic Travers, director of a publicity and consulting firm, has to negotiate a contract with stage producer Courtney Allard and Charles Crewe, who are wanting a lease on a theatre. Crewe has been getting death threats, but is not treating them seriously. Travers is invited down to Allard’s country abode to complete further discussions, but scraps of conversation he hears, make him worried he would be the butt of an April Fool’s joke when he goes down there. Yet instead a day into his visit he is confronted with a seemingly impossible double murder.
I would definitely say this is a howdunnit mystery as the mechanics, timings and chain of events involved in these crimes are quite complex. Travers and Chief Inspector Norris, (who work well as a sleuthing team), are quite fair in revealing what they know/revealing their sources of inspiration, so readers will be able to follow them as they progress through their case. There is a lot to intrigue and perplex readers in these crimes, including bizarre clues at the crime scene, (in a bedroom), such as a Dutch hoe. One slight niggle is that a very crucial piece of information is only found out at the very end of the book, a piece of information which gives the sleuths their final breakthrough and yet the only thing stopping them from getting this information sooner is one very recalcitrant suspect. I don’t know, perhaps this aspect of mystery writing affects people in different ways, but I think I prefer evidence to be more readily available, yet of course given in such a way that you smack your forehead at the end of the story, when you realise what you’ve missed.
The suspects in this story are mostly from a theatrical and American background, though there is also Allard’s sister, Sue, an absent chauffeur and the crime reporter for the Evening Record. The crimes occur very soon into the story so the reader does not get a chance to know the suspects until after the crime has been committed and Bush has quite a lot of fun with expected and unexpected false identities – which of course all help to keep you guessing about who is or are the guilty party. I particularly enjoyed the way the crimes are sprung upon us as well, as the suspense is keyed up to a high level, yet nothing happens, making you think everything is safe for the time being, only for death to strike suddenly and sharply, leaving two dead.
Favourite line of the book you ask? Definitely has to be when Travers is described as someone ‘who knew as little about women as ducks do about dumplings.’
Just the Facts Ma’am (Gold Card): Timing of the Crime is Crucial
Tom Cat at Beneath the Stains of Time has also reviewed this book here.