The Teckman Mystery is a 1954 British crime thriller with a hint of espionage as well.
Philip Chance (John Justin) is a novelist who is being pressured by his publisher Maurice MIller (Raymond Huntley) to try his hand at writing a biography. The subject Maurice has in mind is test pilot Martin Teckman who was killed six months earlier when a highly advanced experimental aircraft disintegrated in midair. While this might sound like an interesting project to many writers Philip is not interested at all. Or at least he is not interested until he remembers meeting Teckman’s sister on a plane. Helen Teckman is young, attractive and vivacious and in researching her brother’s life he’s likely to have to spend some time with her. So maybe the biography is not such a bad idea after all.
Curiously enough another writer had been offered the assignment to write the biography but she was badly injured in a car accident immediately after accepting the offer.
It seems that certain people are rather anxious to stop Philip Chance from writing this book as well. When one of Martin Teckman’s former colleagues winds up dead in Philip’s flat the biography starts to sound like a surprisingly perilous undertaking.
Philip is happy enough to bring the police into the matter but there seem to be other agencies interested as well, probably from both sides of the Iron Curtain. Philip will find himself being used as bait to bring some of these parties into the open, a rather risky proposition as several people have already been killed as a result of prying into the Teckman mystery.
Durbridge liked to make his heroes (such as his most famous creation, Paul Temple) crime writers so it’s no surprise that the hero here is a writer. While Paul Temple is a keen amateur sleuth Philip Chance is a more reluctant hero. This story belongs firmly to the sub-genre in which some poor chump gets mixed up in something horribly dangerous and his survival then depends of seeing it through.
There’s the usual array of fine character actors in supporting parts. Roland Culver is good as always as Major Harris, who might give the impression of being a policeman but is obviously Special Branch or more probably MI5. Raymond Huntley (who plays Philip’s publisher) is one of those familiar cinematic faces one can never put a name to but who always give reliable performances. George Coulouris is fun as the dipsomaniac former aircraft designer who gives Philip the first clue to Teckman’s vanishing act.
The Teckman Mystery is a well-crafted and enjoyable spy thriller even if the plot is a little over-complicated at times. Margaret Leighton’s performance is the highlight. Highly recommended.