‘The only thing is for me to go over there, in a purely private capacity, as my celebrated self. Ex-Superintendent ‘Tubby’ Greene. I’m on a motorin’ tour of the Southern Marches, and, after reading about all the goings-on in Larne I just naturally looked in in passin’. I just get myself known in a quiet way, and interest myself in the feelings and opinions of the people; maybe I don’t think too much of the police handling of this business; maybe the people will talk to me more freely than they would to the cops.’
What a result! A 1957 title for Crimes of the Century, discovered whilst reorganising my bookshelves. Mrs Offences bought this for herself from Simon Finch in Holt last year, but had neglected to alert me to its date of publication.
Two sleepy villages, Larne and Colwin, lie on opposite sides of the River Eve and of the border between England and Wales. The recent arrival of barmaid Nadine Price, the titular minx, woke the villages up. Nadine worked her way through the available eligible men, until things settled down to a keenly-contested love triangle between her, wealthy farmer’s son Denis Pugh, and handsome ex-commando Michael Amber.
Then Nadine vanished. On the same night, a local spinster Evelyn Radford was fatally poisoned in her cottage. Robert Charlton, Evelyn’s tenant, also vanished. There is no sign of foul play, or even of a connection between the three events, but the local bigwigs aren’t happy. Nor are the villagers of Larne and Colwin, who have been left at each other’s throats.
To resolve the situation, the local bigwigs call in the ‘Super’, ex-Superintendent ‘Tubby’ Greene, retired from the Yard and something at a loss. When we first met him, his sole occupations are frustratedly gardening and regretting his choice of housekeeper. He jumps at the chance for a bit of unofficial policing.
The Super is ‘a bit of a character’: beery, fond of a nap, a show-off given to flamboyantly dropping his aitches and talking plain common sense to his colleagues (probably whether they want it or not). His approach in Colwin is to ignore the advice of the local police and approach the situation as a complete outsider. Almost immediately he has made some hitherto unsuspected connections between the dead spinster and the two missing people, and is hot on the trail.
He takes with him a young scientist named Henry Baxter, who was apparently of use in a previous book. Whatever Henry’s talents, he does almost nothing in the story apart from listen admiringly to the Super.
‘Now, Henry,’ the Super went on sternly, ‘you can see how these two worthy officers came to slip up over the handkerchief I found in Nadine’s room. They must have tackled the search of that room as more or less a routine affair… A slip like that, son, would not have been possible in other circumstances. It would never have been made by a Yard man called in fresh to the case.’
Another helper is Major Valentine, holidaying in the area, who jumps at the chance of helping the Super. Between the three of them, they investigate a case with links to wartime misdeeds, drug orgies, and the like. A decent fair-play mystery, with a bit of misdirection and a slightly mawkish ending.
Richard Goyne had published some 32 novels by 1957, including Meet the Super, which I assume is the first book to feature this detective. Unfortunately there would be no more books featuring the Super, as Goyne died in 1957 aged 55. His final book was Fugitive Men.
GA Detection tells me this about Goyne: ‘Other crime novels were written under the pseudonym of John Courage. He also wrote under the names Aileen Grey, Scarlet Grey, Kitty Lorraine and Richard Standish. His series characters include a reforming churchman known as the Padre (Peter Eversleigh), Superintendent ‘Tubby’ Greene and detective Paul Templeton.’
Has anybody read any of his others?
The Missing Minx
First published in the UK by Stanley Paul and Co., Ltd, 1957
Source: Simon Finch, Holt
Final destination: A keeper