Written by Michael D. Gibson Mystery at Three Elms is actually a boys’ adventure story I found in my father's collection of books but this 60 year old lady enjoyed it immensely.
Published in 1948 (even before I was born!) it is set post World War II. The story begins at the end of WWII. Captain James Bell’s old friend Major “Billy” Bristow will soon be returning from the Far East after serving nearly six years in the Army. In a letter he asks Bell what condition his place, Three Elms, is in.
Bell has time on his hands since the Air Ministry has dispensed with his services indefinitely and decides to do his old friend a favour and drive to the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire to check out the place and get it ready for his friends return.
After arriving in Godsell and booking into the local pub he walks to Three Elms to have a brief look around. Although it is jut on dusk he is surprised to see what appear to be bulky objects in one of the rooms. He is surprised at his discovery because his friend’s furniture and belongings are in storage. He decides to investigate further the next morning in daylight. Adding to the mystery are strange tyre tracks in the driveway.
When he returns to the house the next morning he realises he had nt been mistaken the previous night. There stacked in the room, under dust sheets, were paintings and furniture and they certainly were not his friend Bristow’s style and taste.
Rather than break in he decides to visit Bristow’s agents, Harding and Thripp, in nearby Cheltenham to collect the keys to the house.
As he returns to the town he meets Henry Brusch. We discover later that Brusch, a German, has been in an internment camp during the war. Bell hears from the locals how the personality of this once friendly man has changed during the war.
In Cheltenham he tells Thripp about the mysterious collection in the house. Thripp, stunned and the revelation insists on accompanying Bell back to the house. When they arrive the furniture and painting have disappeared. Mr Thripp is not at all impressed and accuses Bell as being either a liar or a half-wit.
Regardless of Thripp’s opinion of him Bell is determined to find out what is going on and asks his friend, Red O’Bannion to assist with the investigation.
Red is a fiery Irishman who fought under Bell in the war. He’s already ready for adventure and even more ready for a fight.
Bell wants to examine the house more but before they do that they decide to call on Brusch.
As they arrive at Brusch’s farm they notice a car disappear and a man watching the property.
Who is this man and why are they watching Brusch’s farm?
As the story unfolds they discover there are a group of men involved in spying on Brusch. Who are they? Why Brusch?
Before answers unfold, including the reason why Brusch has changed, Bell and O’Bannion get in a fight with the men, are kidnapped and threatened with death.
It is pure escapism and fun reading.
My Rating 4*