Michael Innes plunged off the surreal deep end when he wrote "The Daffodil Affair." Maybe it was because of the war--this Inspector Appleby mystery was published in 1942--or maybe Innes just felt like seeing how far he could venture into the weird and still get published. All of his mysteries contain eccentricities: usually a farcical character or a setting that is just out of true. In this particular mystery, characters, plot, and setting are all seen through a glass, cross-eyed.
However, if you can swallow the premise that an obscenely wealthy individual is stealing paranormal objects (including a counting horse, a witch, and a haunted house) with the goal of cornering the market on the supernatural, then founding a new religion and ruling the world after the current dust-up (WWII) is ended, you'll enjoy this story. It has a Grand Guignol climax on the banks of the mighty Amazon River, that includes not only the cab horse, the witch, and the haunted house, but also the phosphorescing ghost of a murdered man.
It also has the strangest motive for murder in all of fiction.
Inspector Appleby is drawn into the Daffodil affair when a cab horse of that name goes missing in wartime London. Daffodil happens to be the favorite 'ride' of Appleby's elderly maiden aunt. Not only is he a gentle, slow-moving steed, he can also answer numerical queries by bobbing his head the requisite number of times, in the manner of the psychic horse, Clever Hans (although Clever Hans used his hoof not his head).
Meanwhile, another Scotland Yard detective named Hudspith is hard at work on the abduction of Lucy Rideout, a young woman with a multiple-personality disorder. He and Appleby converge on the scent when a haunted house in Bloomsbury goes missing.
The detectives follow the trail of the paranormal captives onto a ship bound for South America, posing as psychic Australian sheep ranchers in order to bamboozle the wealthy collector into abducting them, too. Appleby spends his time at sea philosophizing about the gullibility of mankind and persuading his partner Hudspith to fake supernatural visions.
Innes's C.I.D. inspector is more intellectually morose than usual (remember that the author wrote this story in the midst of the war), but his antic streak also emerges, especially when he is persuading the gullible Hudspith to act out yet another phantasmagoric visitation.
"The Daffodil Affair" is vintage Appleby, in spite of its preposterous plot. It shouldn't be the first Innes mystery you read (try "Hamlet, Revenge!" or "One Man Show"), but once you're hooked you won't be able to stop yourself from enjoying it--supernatural fizz, metaphysical speculations, counting horses, and all.