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The Devil in the Bush by Matthew Head

The Devil in the Bush (1945)

by Matthew Head

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Head wrote stories with several settings, including Paris, , but this series is in late colonial Africa. The detective is a bluff veteran woman medical missionary Dr. May Finney. It involves a murder at an isolated airways station in the then Belgian Congo. Head's introductory note indicates that he spent 8 months in the Congo but mildly fictionalized the setting; the only character based on reality is the African servant. ( )
  antiquary | Jun 5, 2015 |
First book in a mystery series featuring swearing, stomping, strong Dr. Mary Finney and her missionary constant companion and life-mate, Miss Emily Collins. It is set in the African Congo during World War Two. A fine read by the famous art historian and art critic of the New York Times, John Canaday, using the pseudonym Matthew Head.
  closefriend | May 21, 2015 |
The story is told by Hooper "Hoop" Taliaferro. The murders are solved by Dr. Mary Finney, 50, plump, and as Henry describes her, :...I'd have trusted her to get me out of a tight spot anywhere, if she were my friend, and I'd have hated to have her working against me. She stood straight and strong with her freckled arms and big hands across her stomach. Her hair was hidden, but from her freckles I knew what it would be - coarse and carroty."

Mary Finney is as close to a Sherlock Holmes as anyone I have read. She thinks, ponders, and puts the pieces (supplied by Hooper) together. All the clues are there, but they seem so innocent, I didn't say 'ah-ha!'. There was only one detail that wasn't explained, but I think one can reason it out.

The motives for the murders are ordinary, but the locale - the Congo - gives an extra feeling to the story. I enjoyed both Hooper and Mary Finney and the story was very satisfying. I am going to seek out more in this series. I hope that Hooper is in them as well. ( )
  mysterymax | Jun 4, 2013 |
First Line: That was a wonderful job I had in 1943.

World War II is raging and young government flunkey, Hooper Taliaferro, finds himself on a mission out in the boonies of the Belgian Congo. He is supposed to be dealing with the owner of the Congo-Ruizi plantation, but when he gets there he discovers that the owner is dead. At first thought to be death by disease, the true cause of death is poison. Who would want to poison André de l'Andréneau? At first Hooper doesn't seem overly concerned about it; this young man tends to be interested in other things:

"The first thing I always wonder about new people is what they manage to do for a living and how they arrange their sex life, because it seems to me that those two activities plus sleep and a movie or two account for most people's twenty-four hours a day."

It doesn't take long for Hooper to run into Dr. Mary Finney, a Yankee version of Miss Marple. She likes the amiable young man, but has no illusions of his powers of deduction: "You're a nice kid, Hoopie," Mary Finney told me, "but you're blind as a bat. I'll tell you when it's time." Finney has strong opinions about everyone and everything. She's convinced she knows what really happened, and she sets about to prove it.

The Devil in the Bush was originally published in 1945, and as a depiction of life in the Belgian Congo at that time, I did enjoy it. However, the plot was too derivative of Conan Doyle and Christie, and the two main characters were two-dimensional. Perhaps I've been reading too many mysteries lately that are very complex, but The Devil in the Bush was a Wham! Bam! Thank you, ma'am! piece of crime fiction that really didn't satisfy. ( )
  cathyskye | Dec 20, 2009 |
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