Friday’s Forgotten Book: The Case of the Leaning Man by Christopher Bush

Christopher Bush (1885-1973) is another prolific writer of the Golden Age who faded from view in the past 50 years. Why his books have not been reprinted while his contemporaries have been is a mystery in itself. Through the assiduous efforts of Dean Street Press, his entire catalog of 63 mysteries featuring writer and amateur sleuth Ludovic Travers, published between 1926 and 1968, is becoming available again. Numbers 41 through 50 were released on 4 May 2020.

In the nineteenth entry in the series The Case of the Leaning Man (Cassell & Co., 1938; reissued by Dean Street Press in 2018) Travers juggles multiple requests for his help. A theatrical agent is desperate to resolve a dispute between two sisters who comprise one of his top acts. He has a lucrative contract for the two, but they are suddenly declining to speak to each other, much less perform together. The loss of the contract means a great financial setback for the agent. Travers has some acquaintance with both sisters, so he agrees to sort out what he is sure is a trifling misunderstanding.

Then a visiting Maharajah is killed in an exclusive hotel, and no one saw anything or anyone at the relevant time. Superintendent George Wharton calls Travers in to help with the potential political implications and the interviews of the victim’s staff and hotel personnel. They advise Wharton and Travers, despite his royal birth and his wealth, the victim ran with a sketchy crowd and exhibited less than well-bred behavior. As the interviews are ending, the local division inspector calls Wharton to tell him that a man who had been picked up as drunk had just died in hospital and that he had the Maharajah’s wallet. Wharton and Travers tear off to the hospital to find out what they can there.

Some classic Golden Age investigative details here, such as a thorough analysis of timing and schedules and assessment of how long the trip from the hotel lobby to the Maharajah’s room might take via elevator versus the stairs. The action seemed to lag here and there because of all this, yet I found the characters appealing and the plot solid enough, if lacking in surprise. I will look for more in the series when my current TBR stack clears a bit.

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