Friday, 27 January 2012

Forgotten Book - The Bleston Mystery

My forgotten book today is The Bleston Mystery, first published in 1928. The author is named as Robert Milward Kennedy, but that pen-name concealed a writing duo. One of the collaborators was Milward Kennedy, whom I’ve written about several times in this blog. The other was someone who had been to the same school as Kennedy – A.G. Macdonell, who later became well known as a humorous writer, his most famous title being England, Their England.

This book is quite different from Kennedy’s solo efforts. It’s a fast-moving, rather light-hearted story, slightly reminiscent of some of the lively thrillers that Agatha Christie wrote in the 20s, especially those featuring the Beresfords. I thought it stood up to the test of time rather well – better than I had expected, to be honest. There is a twist in the tale, and although I foresaw the surprise revelation, I thought it was skilfully handled.

Oddly enough, the main protagonist in this romp is called Kennedy, but his first name is Philip. The book opens with a visit to his home by a sinister foreigner, quickly followed by the news that he is one of two legatees of a dead friend, and the promise of something both mysterious and valuable about his inheritance. Several killings follow, and it becomes clear that Philip’s life is also at risk unless and until he solves the puzzle of a deserted camp at Bleston which had once housed German prisoners of war.

After this collaboration, Kennedy and Macdonell seem to have gone their separate ways, at least in literary terms. I can trace no further joint efforts of theirs. They each achieved a measure of success with solo efforts – perhaps especially Macdonell, prior to his early death in 1941. But The Bleston Mystery ranks as an enjoyable, if little known, piece of light entertainment.

7 comments:

John said...

You are turning up as many oddities and obscure authors as I have this month. Another new one to me! This is the kind of book I love to find. I doubt I will come across a copy in my travels, but if I do I will definitely give it a read.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, John, this one was certainly a fun read.

Anonymous said...

According to the incomplete wikipedia bibliography Macdonell wrote this and five more books under the pseudonym 'Neil Gordon'.

Martin Edwards said...

Correct, anon. I've never seen any of the Gordons.

Anonymous said...

http://greatwarfiction.wordpress.com/2006/08/07/the-seven-stabs/
says MacDonell also wrote eight thrillers as John Cameron. Either he was very prolific or some books are probably misattributed.

scott herbertson said...

Just bought a copy f John Cameron's Seven Stabs from the US - I'll be interested to see what its like - published 1929 Gollancz

Martin Edwards said...

Do let me know, Scott.