Today I am reviewing a final Flynn before I pick the Puzzle Doctor’s brains next weekend at the Bodies from the Library conference on this very writer. The Triple Bite is Bathurst’s 10th outing and as the Puzzle Doctor asserts in his introduction to the Dean Street Press reprint this mystery is a ‘love-letter to the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’ including the following tropes, amongst others: ‘The sidekick of the sleuth narrating the tale. A coded message leading, perhaps, to hidden treasure. A master criminal for our hero to pit his wits against. A mysterious method of murder that defies detection. And, as evidenced by Flynn’s own introduction, one aspect of the story was inspired directly from a throwaway line in a Sherlock Holmes story.’ I would also add that Flynn even bestows upon Bathurst some of Holmes’ mannerisms, such as when he writes that: ‘He assumed an attitude that I discovered afterwards to be a favourite one of his whilst in the capacity of an audience. Stretching out his long legs to their limit, as he sat in his chair, he thrust his hands deeply into the pockets of his trousers and closed his eyes.’ Eye closing (when listening to someone), hands in pockets and leg stretching are all characteristics associated with Holmes in the original Doyle stories.
‘I never thought it would fall to my lot to write what is popularly known as a “thriller”, but Lois insists that I am the right person to do it and when Lois sets her mind on anything—
Young Cecilia Cameron takes up reins as narrator in one of Brian Flynn’s most diabolical and surprising mysteries. Cecilia isn’t expecting to become embroiled in the secret of the doggerel cryptogram, still less the horror that hangs over a little corner of Sussex. When Anthony Bathurst arrives to investigate, she will discover the real meaning of the tiny blood-smear near the body of the late colonel. . . . Only Bathurst’s extraordinary knowledge of the career of the immortal Sherlock Holmes will enable him to succeed in his investigations.
The most exacting thrill-seeker will happily travel hand in hand with Anthony and Cecilia along this trail of clues – and just may eventually help put a name to the guilty party.’
Out of the Flynn mysteries I have read in the past month or so, I would say this tale starts with the strongest narrative hook, which is suitably intriguing and tantalising with a mysterious encoded legacy, whose unravelling will lead the way to wealth. Naturally it is not long until murder rears its ugly head, and this is Anthony Bathurst’s entry point into the case.
The possible treasure is the source of much conflict and violence in the story, with more than one competitor seeking it, which makes it trickier to decide who is responsible for which crimes and acts of malevolence. There is one very flamboyant treasure hunter, who makes their presence felt in the story, yet the shrewd mystery reader is wondering which character more in the background may also be scheming for a piece of the loot.
The narrative is told from the perspective of one of the characters who forms part of the “good guys” treasure hunting team, and whilst they are able to fathom some possible aspects of the riddle, this team have less street smarts, foolishly going out for country drives leaving their house unattended and going for solitary walks at night… It is not surprising one of them gets killed! Out of all of them Cecilia is surprisingly the most sensible, avoiding traps and acting promptly when required. There is some hero worship on her part of Bathurst, but on the whole Flynn eschews using her in a stereotypical heroine in jeopardy fashion.
In keeping with other mysteries by Flynn, an unusual murder method is deployed, which certainly has its gothic/horror elements to it and I imagine a lot of fun could be had with some scenes in this book, if it were to be adapted for film.
Source: Review Copy (Dean Street Press)