Delano Ames' series detectives, Jane and Dagobert Brown, can be considered as the British equivalent of the facetious husband-and-wife detecting teams that were so fashionable in the States during the forties and fifties – not surprising, since Ames was from the US originally. And just like their counterparts, on the other side of the pond, the Brown's are a couple with a fondness for lighthearted banter and a tendency to flutter through life with an air of careless sanguine – as well as an ill-fated habit of almost casually chancing upon a body or two wherever they go. Ah, the good life!
Death of a Fellow Traveller (1950) has a pitiable Jane enduring one of Dagobert's latest fads, as he immerses himself in the world of international intrigue and foreign double agents. He grows a hideous beard, which he's convinced will make him look inconspicuous in public, listens in on private conversations hoping to pick up a coded message, and concludes that the limping man, who's seen visiting their next door neighbors, must be on the payroll of the Russians. But when a rather inconsiderate and ungrateful burglar only has eyes for some of Jane's jewelry, instead of his laboriously compiled and invaluable spy files, playing secret agent man seems to have lost its appeal and he decides to trick his wife into spending a short holiday at a small Cornish town.
Well, a couple of amateur sleuths planning a quiet holiday is an almost guaranteed prelude to murder, and no one should be too surprised when the limping man turns up at their little vacation spot and topples off a cliff. Naturally, the Browns put themselves in charge of the case as they try to piece together the events leading up to the fatal drop-off to figure out if it was just an unfortunate accident, a desperate suicide or murder most foul – and, in case of the latter, whether there was something in Dagobert's spies, after all, or if there's a more domestic origin to the crime. There are suspects aplenty!
This is a rollicking detective yarn, showcasing the blinkin' cussedness of things in general, and one that is self conscious of being a story, thereby providing Jane and Dagobert with various opportunities to poke fun at themselves and their situation. This is a book that will not fail to entertain readers who already enjoyed Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime (1929) and Kelley Roos' The Frightened Stiff (1942).
Woefully, the book has been out-of-print for decades, but a reprint is within sight as the Rue Morgue Press (who else?) is slowly, but surely, bringing Ames' books back into print – so if you have trouble finding this particular title on the secondhand book market, I can recommend his first novel, She Shall Have Murder (1948), from their outstanding catalogue.