I have a pile of vintage crime to get on top of (which reminds me, I must check which Margery Allingham's I already have...) it's something I find irresistible (not that I make any attempt to resist it) especially at times of stress. My father is currently enjoying the opportunity to annoy the nurses in his local hospital after some unfortunate post op complications. He's managed to get blood clots on both lungs, pneumonia, an irregular heart beat that had to be sorted by electric shock treatment, and his knee hurts after the original operation - which was to sort out his knee. Never mind, next week I'll be up there to bother him in person, and meanwhile I can entertain myself with suitably elaborate murders.
'Death In The Tunnel' does elaborate to perfection. Sir Wilfred Saxonby is travelling home by train one dark November night, he's the sole occupant of his compartment which has been locked, so when the train emerges from a long tunnel with Sir Wilfred dead (shot through the heart by a single bullet) suicide seems like the obvious conclusion. There are some odd discrepancies though, and no apparent reason for suicide - so the police are suspicious enough to launch a proper investigation and the picture gets murkier than ever.
I love locked room mysteries, and quite like train journeys (having a 1st class compartment of the old fashioned sort to oneself would make it even more appealing - murderes aside) and steam trains so there's a lot to enjoy here. The descriptions of the tunnel (a long one) filled with smoke, steam, flying cinders, and the roar of the train are fabulously atmospheric - it sounds like hell itself.
The solution to the murder is ingenious with each clue designed to make the case more confusing.
It's so ingenious that it probably doesn't bare careful consideration, but that too is part of the appeal of this kind of murder mystery for me. I don't want gruesome details, what I do want, amongst other things, is a puzzle and the tacit understanding that it's all most unlikely. 'Death In The Tunnel' delivers on that without becoming too unlikely, and that's thanks to the police procedural element.
Inspector Arnold of Scotland Yard is methodical and thorough without being particularly imaginative, his civilian colleague, Desmond Merrion provides the imagination to make the links, but leaves it to Arnold to find the evidence. It's a pleasing combination which satisfactorily explains the presence of an amateur sleuth as well as good working relationship. Another very worthy addition to the British Library crime classics series, and just what I wanted this weekend.