The Dunston Burnett Trilogy
Immortalised to Death
The Séance of Murder
Consider these two statements:
The mysteries in The Dunston Burnett Trilogy appear unsolvable.
Dunston Burnett is a diffident, middle-aged, retired bookkeeper.
This gulf between the near-perfection of the crimes and innocent Dunston’s obvious unsuitability as an investigator, drives the three-story series. The question confronting Dunston (and the reader) is: Does he have the detective skills to even come close to unravelling such clue-free murders?
Fictional detectives come in many guises, with different strengths and weaknesses so perhaps there is more to Dunston than meets the eye. The classic sleuth, exemplified by the magnificent Sherlock Holmes, had extraordinary powers of observation and deduction. Not so Dunston. He does, however, have what Inspector Line in Fatally Inferior calls pre-ductions.
They were not what Line considered proper deductions since they jumped well beyond the known facts, but he’d seen firsthand how Dunston’s mind could join the dots in new ways, and even conjure up as yet unseen dots to create a picture invisible to everyone else.
A Sherlockian talent, it might be thought, except Holmes’s deductions were always right; Dunston’s pre-ductions often well off the mark.
Perhaps, Dunston has some affinity for the tough, hunky, hard-boiled private eyes of Mickey Spillane (Mike Hammer) and Dashiell Hammett (Sam Spade). Hardly. For a quick mental image of Dunston think of a latter-day Mr Pickwick. When Georgina Hogarth in Immortalised to Death meets Dunston after a two-decade gap, she sees:
That bemused expression…that vagueness typically associated with absent-minded professors…plain as the bulbous nose on his chubby-cheeked face.
Not private eye material, then. While he may lack lion-hearted courage and Samson-like strength, he does, however, have the perseverance of King Bruce’s spider.
The question hanging over each of the three stories, then, is this: Can Dunston’s limited detective talents – his pre-ductions and his perseverance – possibly be enough to unravel such fiendishly well executed murders? The full answer will only be revealed by reading the novels. Suffice it to say here that the picture is mixed.
Read Immortalised to Death to learn how far Dunston’s envisioned conclusion to The Mystery of Edwin Drood takes him in solving the bigger mystery – the death of Charles Dickens. Or Fatally Inferior to see if unearthing the motive behind a woman’s disappearance leads him to the killer. Or The Séance of Murder to find out whether Dunston can expose the murderer of the heir to the Crenshaw Baronetcy before he himself dies.