Published by British Library
Publication date 10 May 2016
Source – own copy
“On a dark November evening, Sir Wilfred Saxonby is travelling alone in the 5 o’clock train from Cannon Street, in a locked compartment. The train slows and stops inside a tunnel; and by the time it emerges again minutes later, Sir Wilfred has been shot dead, his heart pierced by a single bullet.
Suicide seems to be the answer, even though no motive can be found. Inspector Arnold of Scotland Yard thinks again when he learns that a mysterious red light in the tunnel caused the train to slow down. Finding himself stumped by the puzzle, Arnold consults his friend Desmond Merrion, a wealthy amateur expert in criminology. Merrion quickly comes up with an ‘essential brainwave’ and helps to establish how Sir Wilfred met his end, but although it seems that the dead man fell victim to a complex conspiracy, the investigators are puzzled about the conspirators’ motives, as well as their identities. Can there be a connection with Sir Wilfred’s seemingly untroubled family life, his highly successful business, or his high-handed and unforgiving personality? And what is the significance of the wallet found on the corpse, and the bank notes that it contained?”
Sir Wilfred Saxonby sits alone in his locked compartment as the train he is travelling on enters a tunnel. When the train emerges from the other side of the tunnel, Sir Wilfred is dead. All evidence indicates suicide but Inspector Arnold and his friend Desmond Merrion believe that murder is more likely. Can they outwit the seemingly perfect perpetrators?
A traditional ‘locked room’ mystery, Death in the Tunnel was the first of the British Library crime series I have read. The series features re-issues of various Golden Age crime novels, popular at the time but forgotten by the reading public until recently.
There were parts of the story where I was silently shouting at Arnold, telling him to stop being an idiot and see what was blatantly obvious to the reader and to Merrion. Of course he did get to the same conclusion, just several pages later. I had figured out the main motives and spotted the red herrings before the reveals but this didn’t alter my enjoyment of the story.
There is something comforting about Golden Age crime novels. The murders are clean, no gore or unnecessary violence. Usually the victim was disagreeable, no justification for murder of course, but lends to lots of suspects (from a small cast of characters) and perhaps a little understanding of their actions. There is the clever detective, amateur or otherwise, and their not so on the ball sidekick. The scenery is idyllic, the stories threaded with a sort of romanticism for a bygone age where glamour and understated opulence were the mainstays. The stories are clear cut, easy to read and the guilty parties revealed and dealt with accordingly, order therefore being restored. They gentle tax the ‘little grey cells’ to borrow from one of the era’s finest detectives. Death in the Tunnel was reminiscent of this, even the cover suggests a long lost glamour.
This was a pleasant, gently paced novel with an old world charm, reminiscent of Sunday evenings watch Poirot or Marple adaptations. Happily I have all of the other British Library crime series novels to work my way through.
About the author
MILES BURTON was a pseudonym of Cecil Street (1884-1964), a British soldier who became a prolific novelist in the 1920s. He was the author of approximately 140 detective novels, of which the most highly regarded were published under the names Miles Burton and John Rhode.
This was book 10 in my #20BooksofSummer challenge.