Atypically for me I am reviewing just one short story today, which was gifted to me.
Before you call your local major crimes unit, I did not tear this story from the collection it came from. This was how it was sold. It seems that someone on eBay was selling off some kind of Lilliput magazine anthology, one story at a time. I am not sure which specific collection it originated from nor whether the anthology had a crime and mystery theme in its entirety. If anyone has any further info do let me know!
Milward Kennedy (Milward Rodon Kennedy Burge) is not an author I have encountered much, mainly because of the lack of reasonably priced copies. When I looked online for more information about this short story, I did not find it listed on the author’s Wikipedia page. However, I did track it down via this website: http://www.philsp.com/homeville/fmi/n04/n04159.htm#A9 .This seems to have a fuller list of the short stories Kennedy produced.
As to novels, between 1928 and 1952, he published 20. Two of these were contributions to Detection Club projects: The Floating Admiral (1931) and Ask a Policeman (1933) and these mysteries are the only experiences of his writing that I have had.
Kennedy’s first mystery novel, The Bleston Mystery (1928), was also a collaborative venture, as he wrote it with A. G. Macdonell, and he published it under the name Robert Milward Kennedy. He also wrote three novels under the penname Evelyn Elder. His two series characters were Inspector Cornford and a private investigator named Sir George Bull. Neither of these two appear in today’s story. Interestingly, one of the jobs Kennedy held during his lifetime was reviewer of mystery fiction for The Sunday Times and The Guardian. I have occasionally come across some of his reviews, such as his one for Anthony Berkeley’s Panic Party (1934), but it is a shame that there is no collection of these reviews, as there are for Todd Downing, Dorothy L. Sayers and Anthony Boucher.
The story is roughly 5 ½ pages long, so I can’t say much about the plot for obvious reasons. The central focus of the story is why a successful French policeman, Henri Lebeau, resigns from his job and disappears. The reason for this is linked to a book on fingerprints and the writer also mentions in the opening paragraphs that ‘the truth is that he was the victim of his own conscientiousness.’ I will say no more!
When it comes to classifying this short story, I would say it is a crime story in a looser sense. The tracking down of the missing policeman is something which occurs off the page and before he is found the reader knows the causes behind the policeman’s disappearance. The focus of the story is a comedic one and the way our greatest virtues can become our greatest foibles. Given the great skill of the detective who is tripped up by his own conscience, I was reminded of the Sherlock Holmes parodies of the late 19th and early 20th century. I felt there was a similarity of tone.
Given the scarcity/price of his novels I was not surprised that there are not many reviews of his work, outside of the Detection Club collaborations. However, I thought it might be useful to have the reviews that do exist for the other novels listed in this post, and if I have missed you off the list, please add your links below.
- Half-Mast Murder (1930)
- The Murderer of Sleep (1932), which has been reviewed by Jason and Nick.
- Angel in the Case (1932) – Written under the Evelyn Elder penname
- Corpse in Cold Storage (1934)
- Sic Transit Gloria (1936) a.k.a. Scornful Corpse
Plus, I came across this review for the short story ‘Death in the Kitchen’.
If you have read a good mystery by Kennedy, then do share your recommendations. It is hard to know which titles to seek out when there is not much information to go on. Given the renewed interest in Golden Age Detective fiction, it is intriguing that this author has not benefitted from it. Is there an issue with the rights? Are the books just not that good? It is rather hard to tell from very foggy memories of the Detection Club collaborations and one short story, which is told well enough. Moreover, I have other dim memories that Dorothy L. Sayers did not write glowing reviews of his work.