A long extended farce, featuring the sort-of dynamic duo Warnford and Marden. Warnford has been cashiered from the British Army for important documents going missing on his watch, and Marden robs safes for a living (relax, only from those who can afford it). Marden fails to rob Warnford’s safe and a beautiful friendship is instantly born, which segues immediately into the both of them going up against Hitler’s finest in the UK in the year before the war. Disgraced officer and cat burglar they may be, they aren’t unpatriotic.
Faint but pursuing, M.I.5 operative Tommy Hambledon is trying to figure out just who these two entrepreneurial amateur spies are who keep leaving him billet doux all over southern England in the form of German spies, tied up neatly and left in places convenient for Hambledon to retrieve.
Warnford and Marden are not pros, as for example:
Hambledon was just about to step out and take an active part in the proceedings when a middle-aged man with brown hair turning grey bounced in the room, locked the door, tripped over the cat, bumped into the wardrobe door, and slammed it shut. Hambledon just got his fingers out of the way in time.
but they do mostly by accident and/or good fortune always get their man, or men. Later, there is an extended scene in an insane asylum where some of Our Men are imprisoned that provides a comic convergence Buster Keaton would have envied. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Note: I have managed to acquire most of the Manning Coles novels and am currently burning through them at about one per day. They’re sort of like peanuts, you can’t eat just one. If you don’t know about Manning Coles, see Wikipedia and The Rue Morgue Press. The Rue Morgue Press is, happily, bringing them back into print in trade paperback.