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Leo Bruce

croft-cooke-bruceLeo Bruce (1903-1979) was a pseudonym for Rupert Croft-Cooke. Bruce began teaching as a private tutor in Paris at just seventeen. His first book was ‘Songs of a Sussex Tramp’, a poetry collection published in 1922. Later he spent two years in Buenos Aires, teaching English and managing the journal’ La Estrella’. In 1925 he returned to London as a free-lance journalist and writer, and finally opened a bookshop in Rochester, Kent. He joined the British Army in 1940 and saw service in Africa and India. After his discharge in 1946 he returned to writing and became the book critic for ‘The Sketch’, a position he held until 1953. He was one of the last people to be arrested in Britain under the harsh homosexuality laws of that era. He died in June of 1979.

His two main contributions to the mystery genre are the Sergeant Beef series, featuring a plain, brawny, droopy-mustached, British copper (later private detective) from the Braxham village constabulary. Beef was clearly designed by Bruce to mock the eccentric Great Detectives of Golden Age British mystery fiction. After his arrest and legal problems, Bruce abandoned Sergeant Beef and started the Carolus Deene Series, which feature a history master at the fictitious Queen’s School of Newminster.

More on Leo Bruce
More on Sergeant Beef  
More on Carolus Deene

Read Leo Bruce online

3 detectivesCase for Three Detectives (1936)
Inspector Beef Series


Locked Room Review

Available in paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: Beef outdoes the best!

‘A Case for Three Detectives’ is high on Hoch’s list of Best Locked Room mystery novels. This is a great mystery genre tour which involves various Golden Age detectives,  easily recognizable despite the altered names, including, Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey and Father Brown. Each offers a brilliant solution to the murder – but they all turn out wrong and it is finally left to the plodding Sergeant Beef, assisted by his ‘Watson’, Lionel Townsend, to actually solve this locked room case.

More on ‘Case For Three Detectives’

Nothing BloodNothing Like Blood (1962)
Carolus Deene Series

Available in used paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: Another case of defenestration!

His old friend Helena Gort calls on Carolus Deene to come to Cat’s Cradle, a seaside guest house and find out about two deaths judged respectively “natural causes” and “suicide.” There is no doubt in Helena’s mind that something sinister has happened and something very unpleasant is brewing. She is right. Another death by ‘defenestration’, as Robert Adey notes, from a locked room.  Not rated. No reviews available.

Leo Bruce Locked Room Short Stories

Murder in MinatureMurder in Miniature (1993)
Short Story Collection


Best Review

Available only in used hardcover or paperback editions


Note: Three more locked room titles?

‘Murder in Minature’ is a collection of 28 short-shorts by this master crime writer, all but one originally appeared in the London Evening Standard between 1950 and 1956, and most had been lost until the publication of this collection in 1993. Most capers cover five to seven pages and focus on plot puzzles; the characterization is deft but stripped to the bone. Ten of the tales feature Sergeant Beef; eight follow Sergeant Grebe. Crimes include murders, by poison, by blunt instrument, and by a long walk off a high cliff. The dead are circus midgets, spouses, stingy drunks or quiet neighbors. Justice usually prevails, at least indirectly.

The Wikipedia article ‘Locked Room Mystery’, lists three of these titles as locked room stories, though they are not currently included in any of the major locked room bibliographies. These stories are on my reading list, and this page will soon be updated.

‘Beef for Christmas’ is another lost Leo Bruce story. Read on line: ‘Beef for Christmas’

Murder in MinatureHoliday Task
Inspector Beef 
Collection: Murder in Miniature

Sgt. Beef divines how the new governor of a Normandy prison was killed in his car without ever getting clocked out of his office.

No further information currently available: Listed as a locked room story at Wikipedia: Locked Room Mystery

Murder in MinaturePerson or Persons
Detective-Sergeant Grebe
Collection: Murder in Miniature

No information currently available: Listed as a locked room story at Wikipedia: Locked Room Mystery

Murder in MinatureInto Thin Air
Detective-Sergeant Grebe 
Collection: Murder in Miniature

This story tells of the disappearance of Urquhart Bresson’s sister. From all appearances it is impossible that the sister could have disappeared, as the house was closely guarded.

No further information currently available: Listed as a locked room story at Wikipedia: Locked Room Mystery

Rupert Croft-Cooke  Bibliography

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