originally published 1922
About this novel, Barzun and Taylor have to say that it is a "classic detective story that has never received due recognition". (427) Looking at what a number of readers have to say about it, it's certainly not one they're falling over themselves to praise. I not only had fun with it, but part of the draw for me is that it is so very different than other crime/mystery novels I've been reading as I've been flipping through the history of mystery and crime fiction, and quite frankly, I enjoyed it immensely. This story begins with a CID detective on his holiday who suddenly finds himself in the middle of what appears to be a kidnapping and a murder. Not having come to Dartmoor "to catch murderers, but to catch trout," he is determined to stay out of things, until he is summoned by the victim's wife, Jenny Pendean, who had heard that he was in the area and now asks for his help. According to the local policeman, "it's all pretty plain sailing, by the look of it," but for Mark Brendon, it will be anything but, as he steps into one of the strangest mysteries of his career, one that will take him from Dartmoor to Cornwall to Italy and into the lives of the four Redmayne brothers, Jenny's uncles, one of whom has been accused of the crime. When Brendon has done all he can but things go south anyway, an American named Peter Ganns steps in to help. Gann's "strong suit," he notes, is his "linking up of facts," and he is only too quick to point out that Brendon had it all wrong from the start. While Brendon isn't exactly pleased at being told about his mistakes, time is of the essence and the two must work together to prevent another tragedy.
While this is anything but your standard 1920s British murder mystery, it's not without its flaws, and the biggest one of all is that after a while it is only too easy to figure out what exactly is going on here. While there were several inner eyeroll moments, I will admit that this time around I didn't mind that so much -- the whole story is so very strange, and so out of the ordinary that it completely merits following it to its conclusion. It was also nice (although admittedly frustrating towards the end) to see a detective with his own flaws -- while Ganns seems larger than life at times, Brendon on the other hand is very much a person who is only too human.
The Red Redmaynes is a novel I can certainly recommend to readers who like their crime stories a bit more on the out-of-the-box, stranger side. There will definitely be more Phillpotts novels coming to my shelves in the near future.
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