Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Golden Dagger - E. R. Punshon

Cover shown is the water damaged 1951 first edition hardcover by Victor Gollancz Ltd (UK).

I'd read an online bio of Punshon where he was described as "one of the most shamefully neglected writers of detective fiction", so I was looking forward to reading one of his 40+ crime novels.

The Golden Dagger features Punshon's series detective, Commander Bobby Owen of Scotland Yard. He is sent to investigate when a valuable Renaissance-era dagger is found in a telephone box near the small village of Lower High Hill. Brown stains on the blade are soon verified to be human blood.

The dagger took pride of place in the antiques collection of Lord Rone. His country estate, Cobblers, is presumed to be the scene of the possible murder, and Bobby centres his investigations squarely on the relatives and visitors of Lord Rone. He has to deal with the melodramatic daughter of Lord Rone, a reclusive writer who may - or may not - be missing, and the fact that there's a murder weapon but no body.

I had high hopes for this novel. It started well, but seemed to quickly become bogged down with endless conversations, possible clues, possible suspects... I started the book on January 20, and struggled through it, a couple of chapters at a time, for an entire week. It's not that the writing was bad (far from it - it was well written with some great characters), but that too much seemed to be happening, too many characters were involved, and I lost interest early on. It was a relief to get to the end.

Ernest Robertson Punshon (1872 - 1956) was an English playwright and novelist who also wrote as Robertson Halket. Despite his significant contribution to the Golden Age of detective fiction, I couldn't find any mention of him in my reference books.

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