I first became aware of Robert Player's debut novel The Ingenious Mr Stone thanks to Julian Symons' Bloody Murder, a book which introduced me to many fine writers and novels (if The Golden Age of Murder does as much for others as Symons' book did for me, I'll be more than satisfied!)) Symons included the novel in a disparate collection of "curiosities and singletons" whose very randomness was, for me, part of its appeal. He said the book "is notable for the evident enjoyment with which it is written, its humour, and the outrageous (as late as 1945) use of more than one disguise."
When I first read the novel, I enjoyed it, but not in fact as much as I did when I went back to it, having allowed enough time to have elapsed to have forgotten most of the story. Perhaps I'm better able to appreciate it now. As Symons noted, the structure is reminiscent of that of The Moonstone, and two of Player's three narrators are, if not totally unreliable, at least not to be trusted in all their judgements.
The story is sub-titled "The Documents in the Langdon-Miles case", and it tells, or purports to tell, a tale dating back a decade or so, to 1931, and begins with a foreword written by Adam Muir, a crusty old Scottish lawyer, speaking about the deaths, in quick succession, of two sisters. Almost half the story is told by Sophie Coppock, secretary and bursar of a girls' school, and a fervent admirer of the head teacher who was the first of the women to die. Her account is full of tantalising clue which makes little sense to begin with, until an explanation is forthcoming.
That explanation is given by an elderly woman who is Sophie's aunt, and who "describes the methods used by Lysander Stone in solving the Langdon-Miles problem". We are not, in fact, introduced to Lysander Stone until the book is half way through, and this is just one of many unusual features of a remarkably enjoyable story. Julian Symons was a good judge, and this one is definitely recommended. It's odd that Player did not return to crime fiction until the Seventies - not long before his death - but even if his other work did not quite match the brilliance of his debut, The Ingenious Mr Stone is a great example of a very clever and entertaining whodunit..