Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton

Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton – this is a British Library Crime Classic, first published in 1936, about the death of Sir Wilfred Saxonby who was found in a first class compartment of the 5 pm train from London to Stourford. He had been shot through the heart. Initially it was thought he had committed suicide while the train was passing through a long tunnel, but there seemed to be no reason why he should have wished to kill himself. Inspector Arnold of Scotland Yard became interested in the case when he heard of a strange incident that had taken place in the tunnel – a mysterious red light had caused the driver to slow down for a few moments. Unable to find out why this had happened and whether it had any relevance to Sir Wilfred’s death he consulted his friend Desmond Merrion, an amateur expert in criminology and between them they discovered what had happened.

It’s a complex mystery -a type of locked room puzzle. If Sir Wilfred hadn’t committed suicide, who had a motive for killing him? Because Sir Wilfred had asked to have the compartment to himself, the rear guard had locked the door and it was only opened when the train reached Stourford – so how could anyone have got in? A miniature automatic pistol with Sir Wilfred’s initials on it is found under his seat, but although he had a certificate for a revolver and a rifle he didn’t have one for an automatic pistol. Why is his train ticket was missing and what is the significance of his wallet and its contents. It puzzles Inspector Arnold and Merrion and it puzzled me too. First of all it is not at all clear, if it was murder, who was responsible – his family, his business employees or contacts, or was it because of his personality – who disliked him so much to want him dead. And on top of all that how had he been killed? This both a whodunnit and a howdunit – and it is most ingenious. If you, like me, enjoy this puzzle type of mystery you’ll enjoy this book.

Miles Burton is a pseudonym. His real name was Cecil John Charles Street (1884 – 1964) and he also wrote under the names of John Rhode and Cecil Way. In his Introduction to Death in the Tunnel Martin Edwards writes about Street’s career as a crime writer. He was a founder member of the elitist Detective Club and was and compiled an anthology of the work of the Club’s members, Detection Medley, and continued to publish crime novels until the 1960s. He was a prolific writer – see this list of his works on the Fantastic Fiction site.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ British Library Publishing (10 May 2016)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 071235641X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0712356411
  • Source: my own book
  • My Rating: 3*

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

This week I’m featuring one of the books I’m currently reading – Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton, a Golden Age murder mystery. Miles Burton is one of the pen names of Cecil John Street, who also wrote under the names John Rhode and Cecil Waye. He was a prolific author who produced four detective novels a year for thirty-seven years!

The Book Begins:

The 5.0 pm train from Cannon Street runs fast as far as Stourford, where it is due at 6.07. On Thursday, November 14th, it was, as usual, fairly full, but not uncomfortably so.

A fairly dull opening paragraph to a very complicated murder mystery that is keeping me turning the pages as fast as I can and at the same time trying to take in all the detail.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

The alternative to suicide can only be murder. I should naturally like to know who may be said to benefit by Sir Wilfred’s death?


On a dark November evening, Sir Wilfred Saxonby is travelling alone in the 5 o’clock train from Cannon Street, in a locked compartment. The train slows and stops inside a tunnel; and by the time it emerges again minutes later, Sir Wilfred has been shot dead, his heart pierced by a single bullet.

Suicide seems to be the answer, even though no motive can be found. Inspector Arnold of Scotland Yard thinks again when learns that a mysterious red light in the tunnel caused the train to slow down.

Finding himself stumped by the puzzle, Arnold consults his friend Desmond Merrion, a wealthy amateur expert in criminology. Merrion quickly comes up with an ‘essential brainwave’ and helps to establish how Sir Wilfred met his end, but although it seems that the dead man fell victim to a complex conspiracy, the investigators are puzzled about the conspirators’ motives as well as their identities. Can there be a connection with Sir Wilfred’s seemingly troubled family life, his highly successful business, or his high-handed and unforgiving personality? And what is the significance of the wallet found on the corpse, and the bank notes that it contained? 


What have you been reading lately?

The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles Burton

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles Burton was first published in 1930. Miles Burton is a pseudonym. His real name was Cecil John Charles Street (1884 – 1964) and he also wrote under the names of John Rhode and Cecil Way. I like these names – variations on the word ‘street’. This edition was published by the British Library in 2016 and is one of my TBRs.

It’s not an easy book to write about. There is a murder – that of the landlord of the Rose and Crown Inn in the village of High Eldersham. He was found dead slumped in a chair, having been stabbed in the neck. The local police don’t feel able to deal with the murder so call in help from Scotland Yard.

But when Detective Inspector Young arrives he discovers that there is something very strange about the village and its inhabitants. Like a lot of small and remote villages the local people keep themselves to themselves and are very wary of strangers – they’re not made welcome and they don’t stay very long. But it’s more than that. Strange things are happening, and Young’s theory to account for the queerness of the place seemed to him (and to me) ‘so impossible, so utterly fanciful, that to entertain it was to doubt his own sanity.’ It concerns ancient legends and customs with a supernatural element. And this is what makes it difficult to write about because to say anything more about this ‘queerness‘ would be to give away a major part of the plot.

Young decides he can’t deal with this on his own and he contacts his friend, Desmond Merrion, a brilliant individual from the intelligence branch of the Admiralty, he had met during the war. He writes to Merrion inviting him to the inquest into the Inn’s landlord death, where he meets a war-time acquaintance, Laurence Hollesley.

From that point on the novel branches into two stories – the murder mystery and a thriller full of danger, drama and pace, plus a damsel in distress and spot of smuggling thrown into the mix. I enjoyed it. It’s easy to read, even if I find it difficult to write about, with clearly identifiable characters and a good sense of location. There’s suspense and the tension rises as the mystery reaches its climax.

Merrion also appears in the one other book I have by Miles Burton – Death in the Tunnel, which I hope to read soon.