Penguin Books #847
First published 1951
Published in Penguin Books 1953
From inside front cover:
Sergeant Beef was a burly, red-faced, complacent ex-village-policeman with a huge dark ginger moustache. He inspired very little confidence – in fact he himself was one of the few people who believed in his genius – but, in his own blunt and logical way, he was a remarkable efficient detective. As a private investigator he joined forces with the police over the difficult Shoulter murder case, and faced problems which, he insisted, would have been far too formidable for the smart amateurs of detective fiction, such as M. Amer Picon and Lord Simon Plimsoll. For Case for Sergeant Beef, while full of its own excitements and complications, enjoys a number of friendly and lightly veiled digs at the plots and characters of other famous writers.
With the opening line: ‘I had made up my mind to have no more to do with murder.’ this was a fun read! Mr. Bruce made little funny remarks picking on literary sleuths and even added himself in the fun. M. Amer Picon is Hercule Poirot and Lord Simon Plimsoll is Lord Peter Wimsey. And Sgt. Beef, when retired from the police force, insisted on buying a house on Baker Street and hanging out a sign Beef Investigations. Fun characters names too, Wellington Chickle, Mrs. Pluck, Inspector Chatto and Mr. and Mrs. Flipp, not to mention the little cottage Labour’s End.
The story is told from the point of view of Mr. Townsend. He followed Sgt. Beef around on his investigations and chronicled them into mystery books. It was the fashion then for the top detectives to have their own ‘chronicler’. In chapter one he had made up his mind to retire from this and go into a business for himself, but when telling Beef about his decision Beef was able to persuade him to go along for one more very unusual investigation.
In chapter two we are introduced to Mr. Chickle and his journal. He has decided to commit a murder. An unsolvable murder, because there will be no motive as he won’t know the victim. In this way he will become immortal and famous. He plans meticulously down to the smallest detail. Recording it in his journal for the police to have after he has died and the case is long unsolved. Once he is ready he moves to the cottage in the woods and establishes himself there as a friendly retired old watchmaker and our murder mystery unfolds! Will it go to plan or will someone throw a monkey wrench in the works. Will Mr. Chickle get away with it? You’ll have to find a copy to find out!
from the book…
About a year earlier Mr. Wellington Chickle had begun to write his Journal. This Journal is now one of Sergeant Beef’s most prized souvenirs, though it only came into his hands long after the Shoulter Case was concluded, and no one knew of its existence, still less had any access to it, while the investigation was proceeding. It is an astonishing document written in large curious handwriting, full of flourishes so ornamental and detailed that they are almost like the illuminated capitals of an old manuscript. It is clear at a glance that the man who wrote it loved his work and probably had nothing to do but perfect it. The Journal opens in March 1945. Its first entry gives the key to the whole thing.
I have decided to commit a murder…
I shall not commit murder for gain, for revenge, for love, for the sake of brutality, for escape from a blackmailer or bully, for spite, for hatred or as a protest against anything whatsoever. In fact – and this is the very crux of the matter – I shall have no motive. And because I shall have no motive I shall never be found out. In other words my murder will be art for art’s sake, murder merely and entirely for the sake of murder. It sounds simple. So do all great ideas.
I am perfectly sane, of course. I am considered rather a nice old gentleman, fond of books and gardening, and devoted to children. A hundred people could testify to my sanity. I am not even an eccentric or a solitary. I am generally liked, even respected.
So my reasons are these. I am going to commit a murder because I have found the key to successful murder – to have no discoverable motive. Because I want to achieve something before I die which will make my rather odd name live in the annals of time, and murder seems the surest way of achieving this. Because I really have nothing much to do with the remaining years of my life, no absorbing interest, and I think that the planning and carrying out of this will give me what I need….
Are you intrigued now? I’ll be looking for more Sergeant Beef books that’s for sure. I read one of Leo Bruce’s Carolus Deene books before and enjoyed it too. If you love vintage mystery keep your eye out for Leo Bruce!
A great website for Leo Bruce books and a short story featuring Sgt. Beef!