R. Austin Freeman, The Mystery of 31, New Inn

Dodd, Mead & Company, New York 1930.
First edition. Jacket Design by J. W. Oliver.

The Mystery of 31 New Inn was first published in 1912 and was one of R. Austin Freeman’s early Dr Thorndyke mysteries. Thorndyke, a forensic sleuth, armed with his little green case full of scientific detection aids, cunningly unravelled murders and mysteries using logic as well as material evidence. The mystery in itself is brilliantly woven, choked full of scientific evidence, with red herrings galore cluttering up the crime. It is intellectually engaging, with well-developed characters and lots of adventure.

Point to note: the Inns of the Chancery were a group of buildings and legal institutions in London, which have been in existence since at least 1344. New Inn, the focus of this story, was one of the last of these Inns to survive and has only just disappeared after more than 400 years of being the Chancery’s ‘new’ Inn. Even now, however, a few of the original old houses survive (including perhaps, the mysterious 31) and can still be seen from the Strand, just peeping over the iron roof of the new skating rink.