"The horror on the train, great though it may turn out to be, will not compare with the horror that exists here, in this house." On Christmas Eve, heavy snowfall brings a train to a halt near the village of Hemmersby. Several passengers take shelter in a deserted country house, where the fire has been lit and the table laid for tea - but no one is at home. Trapped together for Christmas, the passengers are seeking to unravel the secrets of the empty house when a murderer strikes in their midst.
From the Collins Crime Club archive, the first original novel to feature Ben the Cockney tramp, the unorthodox detective character created by J. Jefferson Farjeon, author of Mystery in White. Strange things are happening in the untenanted houses of Jowle Street. There are unaccountable creakings and weird knockings on the door of no.29, where a homeless ex-sailor has taken up residence.
"Didn't hold my interest"
The first story featuring Ben, the lovable, humorous ex-sailor and down-at-heels rascal who can't help running into trouble. Ben is back home from the Merchant Navy, penniless as usual and looking for digs in fog-bound London. Taking shelter in an abandoned old house, he stumbles across a dead body - and scarpers. Running into a detective, Gilbert Fordyce, the reluctant Ben is persuaded to return to the house and investigate the mystery of the corpse - which promptly disappears!
With his usual knack of getting into trouble, Ben the tramp finds himself hunted by the law and the lawless in this breathless adventure. Returning home to his Cockney roots after a trip to Spain, Ben meets a mysterious stranger on a cross-Channel steamer and is promised a job. On arrival at Southampton, they take a taxi. Ben gets out to post a letter but on returning to the cab finds the stranger has been murdered!
Ben the tramp, the awkward Cockney with no home and no surname, turns detective again - and runs straight into trouble. Ben encounters a dead man on a London bridge and is promptly rescued from the same fate by a posh lady in a limousine. But like most posh ladies of Ben's acquaintance, this one isn't what she seems.
Ben, wandering hungry through the foggy back alleys of Limehouse, is spooked by news of an old man murdered in Hammersmith - and runs! He crosses a plank, slips through an iron door, and goes to sea with the coal. But so does the man who did the murder...and a very pretty lady who did not. On the way the Atlanta loses a stowaway, a pickpocket, a murderer, a supercrook, a wealthy passenger, the third officer and a lifeboat. And that is how Ben gets to Spain....
Ben the tramp's uncanny knack of running into trouble is unsurpassed in the final crime thriller written for him by J. Jefferson Farjeon. On a grey afternoon he was destined never to forget, Ben sat down on a park seat and proceeded to think, not of cabbages and kings but of numbers, lucky and unlucky. But it wasn't Ben's lucky day, or that of the nondescript-looking stranger sitting at the other end of the bench - murdered before his very eyes!
Ben knows that whenever his thumbs are itching, something 'orrible is about to happen. Sure enough, on one foggy afternoon of itchy thumbs, the hapless Ben is implicated in criminal activity by the police - the kind of mistake it isn't easy to explain. Doing a runner, Ben hides in the basement of a deserted house, where he discovers the body of a well-dressed man, shot through the head...and much more trouble than he bargained for.
Tired of being homeless and down on his luck, the incorrigible Ben has taken a job as a stoker on a cruise ship. But his luck doesn't last long when they are all shipwrecked in the Pacific. Seen through Ben's eyes, the uncharted island is a hive of cannibals, mumbo jumbo, and gals who are more nearly naked than any he has ever seen. And every time he tries to bluff his way out of a situation, he just bluffs himself further in, somehow convincing the natives that he has godlike powers....