I should know better. Being prolific does not necessarily equate with quality or innovation. Bridges mostly reminds me of his equally prolific, bestselling contemporary J. S. Fletcher. Both writers churned out standard thrillers jam packed with action (albeit predictable action). Here we have popular fiction that appealed to an audience of undiscerning readers who liked all their entertainment to be ripping yarns, easily identifiable and familiar.
Bridges' most enticing title for me seemed to be I Did Not Kill Osborne (1934) so I started with that one. Ironically, this is an invented title slapped on the book by American publishers. In the UK the book was published as Three Blind Mice (1933), unimaginative and off putting for its nursery rhyme allusion, but aptly symbolic of the three lead characters who get caught up in a dastardly plot oblivious to the danger until it's too late. Despite the difference in titles the premise was intriguing – Nichols Trench, professional sculptor, is on trial for the murder of Jack Osborne, an acquaintance who stole a steel manufacturing formula that would revolutionize construction and engineering. In the opening chapter Nicholas is waiting to hear the jury’s verdict while his defense attorney assures him that he will be acquitted. Of course he is and Nicholas then turns his attention to trying to find out who killed the industrial thief.
Nicholas is aided by #2 mouse Molly O'Brien. She has attended every day of the trial and her presence was not unnoticed by Nicholas’ wandering eye. Molly is the daughter of the formula's inventor and gives us the requisite background on how Osborne became associated with her father back in New Orleans and how he managed to get the formula and return to England. The third of the “three blind mice” is Nicholas’ best friend Sir Jerrold Mordaunt (or plain ol' Jerry to his pals), wealthy heir to a baronetcy, whose money allows the three to finance their impending adventures. Jerry has a devoted butler at his beck and call and a faithful dog, George, that accompanies the group. Nicholas and Molly set up their sleuthing base at Jerry’s vast estate and together the three hatch a plot to recover the formula and capture Osborne’s real killer. A group of professional criminals are hot on Nicholas’ trail and they kidnap Molly which sets in motion a series of high paced pulp magazine style incidents which don’t let up until the final pages. Any hope of the book being a true detective novel just fizzles out.
Oh! Almost forgot. We do find out who really killed Osborne. But there was no detective work involved at all. By the end of the book with Nicholas having nearly died three times and Molly's being abducted, beaten and nearly blown up herself does even matter who killed Osborne? The revelation is done in a confession by the killer's widow. Huge anticlimax.
In a word, passable. Very attractive dust jacket on the US edition up there at the top of this post. That's probably the only reason to seek out a copy.