You know, you just know, when you pick up a book with the title Crossword Mystery that you are in classic Golden Age territory. Yet this 1934 novel by E.R.Punshon, my choice for today's Forgotten Book, has a bit more to offer than the puzzle.
Strangely enough, the flaws of the book concern the puzzle element more than, say, the drawing of characters. The setup is unlikely, with the young policeman Bobby Owen sent to an East Anglian resort after the drowning of a prominent local resident, at the behest of the dead man's brother, who claims that it is a case of murder, but can produce no evidence. Yet Bobby joins his household, masquerading as relative. Suffice to say that it would not happen today. The eponymous crossword is not easy to solve, but the general direction in which the clues pointing is obvious. Similarly, the culprit (because, of course, it does turn out to be a murder case) is easy to spot.
Yet the book does have unexpected merits. There is a funny scene when a developer explains his plans to turn the resort into a British Monte Carlo. And there is a sobering account of life in Nazi Germany which, in 1934, must have been relatively ground-breaking. Most notably of all, the final scene is quite horrific.
A mixed bag, then. Punshon clearly had considerable ability as a crime writer, and he enjoyed success in his day, publishing more than 50 novels. Yet now he is forgotten. I suspect this is because, on the evidence of the books of his that I have read, he often struggled to blend excellent ingredients into a satisfactorily crafted whole. But this book, despite its failings, was one I was glad to read.