Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: DEATH'S BRIGHT DART by V.C. Clinton-Baddeley

Friday is Forgotten Book Day, a weekly meme usually hosted by Patti Abbott, but today she's on assignment so Todd Mason is doing hosting duties at his blog, SWEET FREEDOM. Don't forget to check in and see what other forgotten books other bloggers are talking about today. Link.

Can't remember who first recommended V.C. Clinton-Baddeley to me, I just know I'd never read him before - hadn't heard of him either. I think his name is one I might have remembered, even if it is a bit of a tongue-twister.

His complete name (according to Steve at Mystery File) was Victor Vaughn Reynolds Geraint Clinton-Baddeley, so perhaps he was wise to shorten it for publication purposes. 

...his mystery writing career consisted of five detective stories that came out between 1967 and 1972, all featuring Dr. R.V. Davie as his continuing series character.

Baddeley's style of writing is a bit different from any of my other favorites of the period - just slightly  enough to impress me, but not so much that it interfered with my enjoyment of the book. He is obviously erudite, his characters think nothing of spouting all sorts of learned quotes and phrasings, some relatively obscure enough to add a bit of additional mystery to the proceedings.

Dr. Davie's choice of reading - in this case, Magyar Terror, a non-fiction account of the anonymous author's turbulent life in Hungary adds to his understanding of the current on campus crisis as well, especially when he deduces who the author is.

Baddeley has a kind of sideways angle approach to the crime which, in this case, is murder at a fictitious college at England's Cambridge University. He really is rather clever though. Can't think who he reminds me of, so maybe he is unique unto himself.

But his books are hard to find, so we'll see how it goes. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out. I'm always thrilled when I make a new mystery discovery. So thanks to whoever it was who first brought this author to my attention.


Baddeley's main protagonist, Dr. R.V. Davie falls under the heading of the amateur detective who sticks his nose in where the cops have already tread or failed to. He is some sort of college don who doesn't really have many duties except to go poking about in peoples' business. (The story takes place in and around a university conference at a holiday break.)

It's very well Davies does a bit of clever snooping too or the truth of the murder of Dr. Brauer, an ambitious, hard-working professor, lecturer and writer, might never have come to light.

While at the podium, Dr. Brauer is felled by a poisoned dart in front of a packed audience. All the events then leading up to his demise come slowly into focus. Turns out Dr. Brauer had a deadly past - a truly heavyweight secret which alters not only the ending of the book, but the good Dr. Davie's handling of it.

There are plenty of suspects, both at the college and attending the conference, as Dr. Brauer's success was resented by some and his personality was such that he had no time to suffer fools, especially undergraduates. But he was a handsome ladies' man so emotions were churning in that area as well.

There are some red herrings too, very cleverly inserted. So cleverly, that I though I'd picked out the murderer early on, but was proved wrong in the end.

Baddeley has a slightly Dickensian gift for names - just the lovely sort of thing I like to find in my English mysteries. There is Ada Trott, Mrs. Pilsworthy, Dr. Willow, Dr. Zinty and Miss Ramble and best of all, two undergraduates - one named Baggs and the other, Mostyn-Humphries. Mostyn-Humphries has some peripheral involvement with the plot, but I just liked reading his name and saying it out loud.

Though the murder happens in front of us, DEATH'S BRIGHT DART would still be considered a cozy, I suppose. Lately I seem to be reading several of these types of mysteries taking place at or near universities - happenstance.

Just to give you an idea of the flavor of the writing, here's a snippet from a few moments after Dr. Davie has had to confront an unsavory bookseller (straight out of Dickens) named, Mr. Stumpf. Books are not the only thing Stumpf is selling or buying.

In the small office the weedy young man was on guard by the tray of photographs and a respectable looking middle-aged man was endeavoring to pretend that he was only standing there by accident. Unfortunately the young man would not take a hint.

..."Good morning," said Davie on his way through.

"Morning," said the young man. "Did you get what you wanted?"

"Unfortunately no."

"Thought you wouldn't."

Outside Davie paused in the dazzling sunlight, watching a military pigeon strutting in the road tirelessly engaged on the quest for provender. He was not aware that he, in his turn, was being inspected by Mr. Stumpf from the window above the shop.

In view of what happened later it was a good thing that Davie turned left into Great Russell Street. At least he had not given Mr. Stumpf the impression that he was staying at the Gainsborough Hotel. He was in fact bound for L'Etoile in Charlotte Street, where he proposed to treat himself to an admirable luncheon.

The line about the pigeon's 'quest for provender' is perfection.

All in all, a pleasant concoction (with very dark undertones and several deaths) - perfect for when you're in a literary mystery sort of mood.

To read a review of one of V.C. Baddeley's other books and to get a list of all five titles, please link here to Mystery File.


  1. Sounds right up my alley and I love the cover will try to find it!

  2. Another of his books was just a Friday Forgotten a few weeks ago, at which time I ordered it and this. I now have this one, the other is out there somewhere.

  3. Yvette, (sad person that I am) I spent a few seconds wondering what V C may have stood for. So thanks for making that clear right away. lol No wonder he used just the VC initials, it would have pushed the print costs up otherwise.

  4. Peggy, I don't have the issue with that particular cover, but I liked much better than the one I do have.

    I say, get the book, whatever the cover. It's terrific.

  5. Richard, I hope you enjoy reading this one. :) Let us know with a review. I'm always hoping other readers will like books I especially like.

  6. Thank you for including the snippet, I was reluctant to read it but it looks really nice.

  7. Hmmm, another another. I may have to skip these as my Mount Kilimanjaro is ready to burst through the ceiling.

    Besides, I need a Nero Wolfe soon, and then book 3 on Adelia Aguilar, Imogen Robertson's first book and more by Paula Marantz Cohen, on top of my global list, tons of books from Oz and U.S. books, too.

  8. If you like literary mysteries taking place on or near a university, then this one's for you, Alyssa.

    I was very taken by the style of writing, too.

    Thanks for dropping by. :)

  9. Kathy: You will soon have no room to walk around in your apartment! Your mountaing of books sounds just like mine - ready to topple over. In fact a bunch of books DID topple over in the bedroom the other night. I woke up and there they were scattered all over the floor. Oh well, these are the chances readers have to take. :)

    I'm anxious to know how you like the Imogen Robertson book. I am loving that series and can't wait to read the next one.

  10. Sounds very interesting and a book, and author, I have mever, ever heard of before - thanks very much Yvette!

  11. Looks like another book for the ol' interlibrary loan!

  12. You're very welcome, Sergio. Vintage mystery fans are always on the look-out for an author they've missed over the years. This a good one to add to the list - if you can find his work. :)

  13. Definitely, Lauren. I'd never heard of him until I read a review on a blog whose name escapes me at the moment.

    I hope you can track down a copy. :)


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