Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: Who — An amateur detective
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #22
Monthly Key Word: And
Date Finished: February 15, 2018
The Toff, Richard Rollison, is asked by the new, young, East End curate (associate pastor) to help out with a parishioner who has been arrested by the police for a murder which occurred during a mob fight. The whole neighborhood is against his reforming tactics, until he beats a tough guy in a boxing exhibition. Meanwhile, the Toff’s investigations lead him to an illegal alcohol distribution racket, as normal alcohol distribution is curtailed during wartime. Various dockside thugs and characters appear, and some try and frame the curate as the mastermind, but the Toff eventually discovers the truth.
Augh, this was a difficult one to get through. Perhaps I just don’t like the social reforming, social delinquency (juvenile or adult), crusading mysteries, or perhaps I just don’t like East End cockney settings. The caricatures of what those East End cockneys are, as opposed to actual developed characters, may be a part of that. Whereas in a Gideon novel, the lack of individual characters is explained by Gideon’s remote management of the entire detective squad, here there is no adequate explanation. Here the Toff is involved with the entire neighborhood, yet everyone is somewhat distant and undefined, other than through standard cliches. Perhaps this type of murder and setting is more realistic, but I prefer my English mysteries to be in some country house or village with a logical and eccentric genius detective. Meant somewhat as an imitation of the Saint, the Toff lacks the wonderful humor that the Saint and Charteris have. I found reading this to be a dreadful chore.