S.S.Murder is the second novel by Q.Patrick which I’ve featured as a Forgotten Book. It first appeared in 1933, and a game of bridge is a significant part of the plot – just as it was a year or two later in Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table. I’m not a bridge player (in my youth, I once went to evening classes to learn how to play, but retired, utterly defeated, after a few weeks). Fortunately, my lack of knowledge didn’t interfere with my enjoyment.
This is a more orthodox detective novel than that superb Q. Patrick book The Grindle Nightmare, and lighter in tone. The story is told through entries in a private journal made by a young woman journalist for the entertainment of her future husband. She is on board a luxury liner, taking a long trip to South America to help in recuperating from illness. But murder intervenes. A wealthy man is poisoned, and before long another person is thrown overboard.
The lively writing is part of the appeal of the book, but inevitably its quality is dependent on the plot. Who is the mysterious “Mr Robinson” who disappears after the first crime? I cherished the hope that, since that was the name used by Crippen when he fled across the Atlantic, there might be some link with the Crippen case. Sadly, it was not to be.
The puzzle is, however, suitably elaborate, and Patrick takes great care to play fair, and offer a range of clues. I guessed part of the solution, but not all of it. Nicely done, I thought. I also rather liked the way he referred to himself in passing – even including a plug for one of his other books! Cleverer than the much-debated modern use, by some, of "sock puppets", that's for sure. This novel is well worth a read, if you like classic whodunits.