Who is Leo Bruce?
It has been sixteen years since his death, so there might be some detective fiction readers who ask such a question. First let me introduce him.
Leo Bruce is the pseudonym of Rupert Croft-Cooke (1903-1979), the author of over eighty published books on a wide variety of subjects. Besides this, he is the author of thirty-one detective novels and a volume of posthumously published short stories. Under his real name he wrote six crime novels, but it is his under his pseudonym that his reputation is secure as an author of traditional detective fiction rich in humour.
Bruce has created two series characters.
One is Sergeant William Beef, a village policeman, who in his first outing, "Case for Three Detectives", outwits three famous amateur detectives (modelled upon Lord Peter Wimsey, Monsieur Hercules Poirot and Father Brown) and solves a locked room murder. In the second novel in which he features, Case Without a Corpse, Beef suggests that he may quit the police, and in his next novel, he astonishes his Watson, Lionel Townsend, as well as readers by setting up as an amateur detective. This leads him into a rivalry with Inspector Stute, one of the big noise of the Scotland Yard.
Bruce's another series character is a rich schoolmaster, Carolus Deene who teaches history at the Queen's School,Newminster. "His excessively large private income and Bentley Continental motor-car, his habit of dressing rather too well and keeping up an extravagant establishment for himself did not endear him to the staff, who were sparsely paid, conscientious men" (Furious Old Women). He is an ex-commando and lost his wife during the war. He has also published a book on historical crimes, "Who Killed William Rufus? And Other Mysteries of History", and crime investigation is his humorous nor attractive but rather other characters are described humorously and vividly. Among these characters, the headmaster Mr Gorringer and Deene's housekeeper and excellent cook Mrs. Stick are of special interest. The former complains of Deene's activity outside school and the latter not only criticises his involvement in crime investigation but also threatens to resign. Oh! and Deene's pupil, Rupert Priggley should not be left out. He is a precocious and saucy boy, only too eager to poke his nose into Deene's investigation.
For those who are not familiar with Leo Bruce, I recommend several of his novels.
In the Sergeant Beef saga; "Case for Three Detectives", "Case Without a Corpse", "Case with No Conclusion", "Case with Ropes and Rings" and "Neck and Neck".
In the Carolus Deene series, you shall especially enjoy "At Death's Door", "Dead for a Ducat", "Dead Man's Shoes", "A Louse for the Hangman", "Our Jubilee Is Death", "Jack on the Gallows Tree", "A Bone and a Hank of Hair".
Reprint editions by Academy Chicago Ltd are yet available.
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