Review - Miles Burton 'The Three Crimes'
- Here is the latest, a very early Burton title, which I have also uploaded to the wiki.
Review Miles Burton `The Three Crimes'
The third Burton title, and the second to feature series sleuth Desmond Merrion, this was
first published in 1931, during a period when Major Street was rapidly expanding his
repertoire. His John Rhode books were pretty well established, having been published
since 1925, and at the same time as the first Burton books he had also embarked on the
Cecil Waye series, which eventually only survived for four titles. Between 1930 and 1933
he had an astonishing 22 books published under the three pseudonyms and it is not
surprising that one of them was abandoned if his publishers required this rate of output to
continue. Why the Burton titles continued and the Waye books did not is a matter of
conjecture, though the former may have been more lucrative since they were published
under the Collins Crime Club imprint.
Here, the mystery begins when renowned financier Sir Charles Formby, who has ruined
many people through his activities in the City, is poisoned during a channel crossing from
France. His son Brian has an obvious motive but absolutely no opportunity and the police
investigation falters. However, when an infamous rake named Pilkington is found
murdered while enjoying a yachting holiday the investigators attentions turn to Sir Hubert
Massinghurst, husband of his latest mistress. But again there is plain motive but a cast
iron alibi to frustrate enquiry. Merrion begins to develop a theory that might explain
matters, but before he can develop it he unaccountably disappears. When an unsuccessful
attempt is made on the life of a notorious blackmailer the police finally get a clue, which
leads them towards the perpetrators of all three crimes.
This mystery finds an author still developing the style that was to become an intrinsic part
of these books for the next thirty years. Indeed, it was not until `Death of Mr. Gantley', the
fifth book in the series, that the pieces finally all came together, with Merrion and his long
time cohort Inspector Arnold working together, usually in a fictitious rural or seaside
location. Here the chief police investigator is Inspector Young, who had worked with
Merrion in the previous book, and while Arnold appears briefly he is very much a sketchy
and secondary character for instance we are not told his rank. However, the denouement
of this mystery leaves Inspector Young determined to leave the police force, paving the
way for Arnold to take centre stage in the next book.
Whilst it is in many ways a transitional book, this still contains many of the elements which
devotees of this series will recognise and admire. Notoriously difficult to track down, it will
be a mystery that many would be very pleased to add to their collection.
R E Faust