The Spiked Lion (1933) by Brian Flynn

Having delved into some recent crime fiction releases, for today’s review I have gone back to the golden age of detection. It’s only a matter of weeks until the next 10 books by Brian Flynn are going to be reprinted by the Dean Street Press. I’m sure classic crime fans have been counting down the days. An added bonus is that these next 10 reissues come with a brand new introduction from the Puzzle Doctor a.k.a. Steve. It is easy to tell that a lot of research has been put into writing the general introduction and the specific title introductions and Steve does an excellent job of providing a fresh look at Flynn and his work. Today’s synopsis comes from Steve too:

‘A codebreaker is found dead in Bushey Park with wounds all about his body as if he has been attacked by a savage beast. In his pocket is a hand-written note referring to an “animal that is not normal, it is spiked”. However, when the post-mortem is carried out, it seems that the victim died not from his wounds but from cyanide poisoning . . . On top of that bizarre crime, there is also a locked room murder – another cyanide poisoning – for Bathurst to solve.’

Overall Thoughts

In keeping with my previous reads by this author, Flynn dives straight into the thick of it, from page one, with suspicious deaths coming hard and fast in the opening chapters. Like with The Case of the Black Twenty Two (1928), these murders take place over multiple sites, though some locations get more page presence than others. In fact, I would say this is one of Bathurst’s most mobile cases. Bathurst and the reader have to consider the possible connections between the deaths, in terms of how they were committed but also what is the underlying purpose or purposes behind them. The wider criminal conspiracy involved in this novel can be pieced together by the halfway mark, hence the reason my comments are a little more circumspect than usual. But it is much harder to know for certain who is involved in the conspiracy and who is not. Moreover, I think the final solution still has plenty of surprises left in store, and it contains a delightful and clever red herring, which has you kicking yourself all the harder because it is so simple. Agatha Christie is not the only author modern day crime writers could learn a thing or to from, when it comes to the art of misdirection.

Rating: 4/5

Source: Review Copy (Dean Street Press)

P. S. It is interesting to see what signs of the times Flynn includes in his books. My attention was particularly drawn to his reference to the film Payment Deferred (1932), in which Charles Laughton starred. This crime film was an adaptation of C. S. Forester’s book of the same name.

See also: The Puzzle Doctor (unsurprisingly) and Tomcat have also reviewed this title.

9 comments

  1. I found a used copy (amazing!) some time ago and liked this Flynn very much. Unfortunately, I haven’t found another in the reprints that has garnered that reaction and “The Creeping Jenny” I just found irritating. I may need to try others written closer to this one and try again.

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  2. I’ll look for those—don’t know how easy to find in the US. It’s interesting how many mystery writers had far flung talents and interests—from Edmund Crispin’s film scores to Cecil Day-Lewis’s split between poet laureate and mystery writer (love the Nicholas Blake books).

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  3. I must disagree with the majority here. I didn’t like this novel much. The pulpy thrillerish ending is dated and almost risible. And the novel reveals a problem that Flynn had with his first opus: lack of originality. There is a locked room mystery in this one, yes, but the solution is a very minor variant of a trick that I’d just read in a previous novel by Anthony Wynne dating 1929. Honestly, the whole trick of Wynne, preposterous to say the least, is not exactly the same that appears here but relies in essentially the same crucial element. And, worst of all, a novel of french writer Noël Vindry use exactly the same trick in a different setting (the Vindry novel written aproximately at the same time). Having read both titles before, I immediately figured the solution out, expected nonetheless a different treatement to come out here, but unfortunately, it was not the case. Therefore, no surprise, and no real value for this title.

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