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1326, and Edward II is not remotely happy. His queen, Isabella, refuses to leave France with her son, and when Sir Baldwin Furnshill and Simon Puttock return from France with the news, they are summarily dismissed from court and sent back to Devon. Not that this is a problem for the two men, as it is a chance to reunite with their families, but Devon – indeed, England itself – is not the country they left.

With Sir Hugh Despenser’s influence growing in the land, his followers are growing in power, seizing opportunities to further their wealth and ambitions regardless of the consequence to others. But when a camp of travellers is slaughtered and then the local bailiff suffers the same fate, it seems that Baldwin and Simon must try and enforce the law in a lawless land. But there are other concerns as well – Despenser has plans for Simon’s daughter and soon a wedge will be driven between the two friends, causing a split that may never be repaired…

Book Twenty-Seven of the Templar Series from blog-favourite Michael Jecks, and I’ll warn you, this isn’t a traditional murder mystery. It’s more a who’s doing what, rather than whodunit, and even then, at the end of the day, the motives of the villain seem rather basic, despite the consequences of their act that reverberate throughout the book. No, this is much more like an historical crime story, almost a procedural, despite there being few procedures to follow in this era of history.

The investigations are engrossing, as Simon and Baldwin are assisted by a couple of familiar faces to fans of the series, but it’s the character work that makes this book stand out. We get to spend some significant time with Edith, Simon’s daughter, as she… well, spoilers, but her situation as first her husband is arrested and then… again, spoilers, is gripping and moving at the same time. This strand is nicely coupled with an arc for a character that I never thought I would care about, but found myself completely caught up in his fate.

There are other strands – the story of Agnes, the widow of the murdered bailiff, Brother Mark, a monk from Tavistock caught up in events, the various tales of fathers and children – even the relationship between the immoral Sir Robert de Traci and his son Basil – that kept me absolutely gripped.

This is an outstanding book – not a traditional mystery, but all the better for not trying to lever such a plot into a landscape that would have difficulty sustaining it. I don’t think it’s the best place to start for the series, but it’s a deeply satisfying read regardless. Highly Recommended.

Here are Michael’s thoughts on the book:

No Law In the Land - Book 27 - YouTube
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Brighton, 1964, and all Colin Crampton, crime reporter at the Evening Chronicle, wanted was to have a nice dinner out with his girlfriend Shirley. But despite her steak being served rare, there seems to be some extra blood on her plate. Mainly because it’s dripping through the ceiling…

Racing upstairs, Colin finds a dead body (obviously) with its throat slit with a double-bladed knife. Soon, he finds himself mixed up in the middle of a plot to… well, that would be telling. But it’s a plot that involves a tango teacher who can’t dance and a wax effigy of Yuri Gargarin. All in a day’s work…

This is the fourth novel in the Crampton of the Chronicle series – there are some short stories and novellas as well – and they are rather charming cozy mysteries.

Peter Bartram has channelled his experience as a reporter into these stories – although I seriously doubt he ever investigated anything like this – but these aren’t dry news stories. Colin, the narrator of the tales, has a nice line in wit and the plot dances around the bizarre while remaining within the bounds of plausibility.

Admittedly, this is more of a what-is-going-on mystery than a who-done-it, but it should be said that a) you won’t guess what is going and b) it’s fairly clued. Moreover, you’ll have a good laugh when reading it.

Apologies for the brevity of the review – I’m a little pushed for computer time at the moment – but this is well worth your time. Definitely Recommended.

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The village of Millham Prior is an isolated spot in Devon, and the destination for Doctor Raymond Ferens and his wife, Anne, for the beginning of their new life. Needing a more peaceful location following his traumatic war, Millham Prior seems just the place to take over a country practice. The locals seem friendly and welcoming, both the gentry and the normal village folk. But then there’s Sister Monica…

Sister Monica runs the local children’s home with an iron fist, and a number of the locals seem to have concerns about her. It seems that a year ago, one of her charges died, falling into the water below the mill – the mill race. And then Sister Monica is found dead, apparently suffering the same fate. The villagers seem willing to believe that it was an accident, but the local police are less sure. Enter Inspector Macdonald…

This one was recommended to me by… I think it was Curtis Evans over at The Passing Tramp, as one of the stand-outs of Lorac’s output, also known as Speak Justly Of The Dead in the US. There are 48 Lorac novels featuring Inspector Robert Macdonald and this is one of the later ones – book 38 in fact.

You may recall that I wrote about the first “Bodies” conference at the British Library when I queried Ngaio Marsh’s membership of the Crime Queens. I suggested Gladys Mitchell as a replacement – yeah, I know – but maybe Lorac was a better suggestion. There’s a lot of similarity in the structure of Lorac and Marsh, where they both take time to develop the setting and then wheel in the police once the murder has been committed. The difference is that Lorac is a lot better at the detection element.

Having said that, there’s a sense of disappointment here when the Ferens get sidelined once Macdonald shows up, as they are interesting characters in the build-up, but there is here a plot-related reason for it, as there is a running thread concerning the village’s reaction to the crime while the police investigate. It also does fall into the trap, not uncommon in the Golden Age, of trying to convince the reader too early as to who the killer is, when we’re not going to be fooled due to the page count.

Regardless, this is a solidly entertaining murder mystery, but still not the outstanding work by Lorac that I was hoping for. I wouldn’t shell out the £100+ that it’s going for on Abebooks,  but the alternate title is much, much cheaper… Worth A Look.

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When Richard Langley entered the town of Angel, he never expected things to transpire the way they did. He never expected to meet Priscilla Schofield. He never expected to be asked to deliver her kitten Ahaseurus to Priscilla’s father. And he never expected to stumble into the wrong house and come face to face with a gang of obvious criminals – a really bad time to walk in and, in an attempt at humour, announce that the cat was out of the bag.

Soon, Langley finds himself looking over his shoulder for enemies in the shadows and when a body turns up in his car, things start to hot up. But it is only when Langley himself disappears that Priscilla decides she needs to summon some help – help in the form of Anthony Lotherington Bathurst.

Every author has one – Agatha Christie had Postern Of Fate and Passenger To Frankfurt. John Dickson Carr had Papa La Bas. But these were their final works, as age and infirmity kicked in. But they also had the occasional stinker when they were at the height of their powers. Christie’s The Clocks, for example, or Carr (as Carter Dickson) with And So To Murder. The Facebook GAD group offered Gladys Mitchell’s Mudflats Of The Dead, Edmund Crispin’s Frequent Hearses, Ngaio Marsh’s Died In The Wool, John Rhode’s Pinehurst, Michael Innes’ The Open House and many, many more. Authors who generally wrote great books – well, for me at least the jury is still out on Innes – but for some reason had an utter drop in quality for a book or two. Well, you can probably see where I’m going with this…

Generally speaking, Flynn has gone under the radar for years until a certain blogster became obsessed with him, but one reference to him comes from Jacques Barzun in his Catalogue of Crime. Barzun had read only one title by Flynn, and responded that the book he read was:

“Straight tripe and savorless. It is doubtful, on the evidence, if any of his others would be different”

And the book that he read was this one.

Imagine if the first and only book by Dame Agatha that you read was The Clocks. Or Postern Of Fate. It would put you off for life. And, of all the Brian Flynn titles that Barzun read, he had to choose this one. Now, I’ve read sixteen books by Brian Flynn and enjoyed to varying degrees every single one of them, so I know this is an aberration, but after this one, no wonder Barzun dismissed him.

To be fair, I’d not call it savorless. I like Flynn’s verbose writing style and his turn of phrase, so it’s not savorless. But it is tripe. Because he forgot to put a mystery in the story.

The book it reminds me of most is Allingham’s Traitor’s Purse, with lots of running around after villains and not much really happening. There’s no whodunit element here at all, with the only mystery being what the villains are up to. And it’s a stupid scheme which is extremely dated and that I’m not convinced would have worked anyway, and really doesn’t seem enough to kill over.

Add in some rather painful flirting between Langley and Pauline, Pauline’s father who is the biggest stereotype of the retired colonel stereotype – who is quite amusing at times to be fair – and Anthony Bathurst in a dress… no, this may not be savorless, but it is unfortunately tripe. The title is pretty dull too – very Rhode-ian.

But on the plus side, my copy has a dustjacket. Isn’t it pretty? That’s Bathurst, by the way, so now I have a picture of my hero. But the book… Not Recommended.

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And now April has passed us by – one third of the year out of the way. I took advantage of a week in Scotland to get a whole bundle of books read. In total, I read fifteen books this month, with something of a focus on the Golden Age. Some classics, some alleged classics and some… well, best left alone. Some new authors to me, some that I haven’t read in a while and a bunch of John Rhode books.

So, what about those fifteen? Which was the best of the bunch?

The books in question were:

So, of the fifteen books, which ones really stood out? The Spiked Lion and Death On Sunday join the “Somebody Reprint These”, despite Sunday not being close to Rhode’s best mystery. As for the attainable books, Mystery In The Channel and The Case Of The Gilded Fly are excellent, and Murder Isn’t Easy is a very clever piece of work – there’s a lot more from Hull on the way. But the Puzzly this month goes to The Case Of The Dead Shepherd, an evocative mystery, with the pleasant change of being set in a state school rather than a private school for the ultra-rich. Apparently some people find it a bit grim, but I think it’s the strongest of his books that I’ve read to date. Of all of the books this month, this is the one that’s stayed with me the most. And it’s only 99p on Kindle from those nice folks at Dean St Press! What are you waiting for?

Next month, there’s some new releases but for the most part, I’ll be keeping the Golden Age focus. After all, I’ve got a few new Brian Flynn books to take a look at…

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Freddie Hapton fell to earth on Wednesday January 4th 1961, after the plane that he was test-piloting did not exactly pass its test. He finds himself near the town of Alderscar in the North East of England (in Bentshire, apparently) and finds himself a guest of the Greystoke family, and soon becomes embroiled in their family problems.

The family is basically split in two, each with a claim on an old diary, apparently written a member of the family who was a close friend of the Empress Engenie. The diary has been locked in a special box sealed by two padlocks, a key to each being given to each side of the family. But when it is finally time to open the diary, the box is discovered to have vanished. And, rather more importantly, Patricia, the daughter of one side of the family, is found dead… Enter Superintendent Jimmy Waghorn.

Was that always the case with Scotland Yard? When someone dies from unexplained causes, a Superintendent is summoned from Scotland Yard all the way to the Newcastle well before the inquest establishes that there has been foul play? Seems rather unlikely and it’s sort of an odd choice as the opening chapters establish Hapton as the point of view character, so it’s rather odd that almost immediately after the crime is committed we cut to Jimmy and his investigation. I suppose it’s necessary as the plot entails Hapton as a suspect – it’s clear to the reader that he’s not – but I suppose to involve the rather immobile Dr Priestley, we need to focus on Jimmy.

Barzun & Taylor (can you guess what I bought myself for my birthday) refer to The Vanishing Diary as “dull in the extreme” – this is the only review I can find on this one – and to be fair, it’s not great. But it’s not that bad either. Workmanlike, I suppose the phrase would be, but it’s a perfectly competent mystery novel and Priestley, despite never leaving Westbourne Terrace, gets a reasonable amount of page time. It’s a little odd that Jimmy goes to see him quite as often as he does, because (a) nothing Priestley adds is exceptionally complex and (b) Newcastle is quite a distance from London, but Priestley seems a little less condescending in his old age and these scenes are the highlight of the book.

But at the end of the day, I ddin’t particularly care who did it and the revelation is hardly a surprise. Given the original macguffin, and the possibility of two locked rooms – Rachel is locked in her office, but disappointing, locked with a missing key, and the diary/padlock situation has potential too – it’s disappointly straightforward. But having said that, given that this is 72nd out of 72 for Dr Priestley, there is still plenty to pass the time here, but the charm of Death On Sunday is notably absent.

Rhode seems to have dropped a level in his writing some time after the war but kept that new level for a long time, never really dropping massively below it as far as I have discovered. There’s no sense of the dramatic decline that afflicted Dame Agatha or John Dickson Carr, just the sense that he had got into something of a rut. In fact, I rather enjoyed his final two books as Miles Burton, Legacy Of Death and Death Paints A Picture and so far, the only late book that I didn’t like was The Fatal Pool (for its clumsy misdirection). As for this one, well I wouldn’t recommend anyone pay what I did for it but should it every cross your way for a pittance, it’s Worth A Look. And then sell it for a small fortune…

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A forger is at work, arranging for rich people to be robbed and then cashing cheques before the victim catches on. Luckily Scotland Yard is on to him or her (vaguely) and after a tip-off about an upcoming burglary, the mysterious Mr Walters moves into Barleyfield House, a high-class guest house near London. After some unsuccessful snooping, a note is left in his room, written apparently in his own handwriting, identifying “Mr Walters” as Inspector Jimmy Waghorn!

Despite being rumbled, the note leads to the suspicion that the forger is staying at Barleyfield House, but soon Jimmy is distracted by an unexpected death. The Reverend Frank Lextable is crushed by a falling branch from an elm tree. Is the death linked to the forgery? Was it murder or an accident? And will Jimmy need the assistance of Dr Priestley to catch the villain?

After going to the start of Priestley’s career, I decided to go to something from the middle of his adventures – case 31 out of 72 – and the last case for Superintendent Hanslet before a brief retirement. But Hanslet is already sitting on the sidelines as Jimmy Waghorn takes centre stage and goes undercover. This is a great move, as in this book at least, Jimmy is a charming, intelligent lead, newly engaged after Death Pays A Dividend [apparently – can’t see a copy of that for love nor money anywhere] and he’s pretty much on the case here. He doesn’t overlook anything major and while he does get the wrong end of the stick when Priestley gives him a nudge in the right direction, I certainly got the feeling that he would have got his man (or woman) if Priestley hadn’t got there first. Note that this isn’t always the case with Waghorn but this is an early appearance for him and he’s being shown as a contrast to the somewhat old-fashioned Hanslet.

There’s a lovely central clue that points in the direction of the killer, but to be honest, the mystery is rather slight. Even when Priestley helps to narrow down the field, catching the killer seems to come down to accusing someone and hoping they confess.

There’s another oddity here. For an early-ish book, there’s hardly any Priestley in it at all, but there is an early appearance in Chapter Two where Hanslet conveniently explains the general shape of the forger’s scheme, explaining that Jimmy has gone undercover. But the first five or so chapters apart from this don’t reveal that Walters is Waghorn until what would have been a surprise reveal when he receives the note – these parts are all written as if it’s supposed to be a surprise. How odd.

Anyway, this is a charming book, although I didn’t realise how many people consider elm trees as being death-traps. After the Reverend is crushed, virtually everyone is acting like it was an everyday occurrence, despite having previously spent every Sunday morning sitting under the same tree without a care in the world. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Anyway, not top drawer in the plotting, but certainly a book to wave at anyone who claims Rhode’s books are dull and dry. Rather charming and Highly Recommended. But not cheap, jut £600 for the only Abebooks copy, but there are a couple of US editions (The Elm Tree Murder) for a snip at around £120…

Be back soon as I finish my journey with his final case – The Vanishing Diary.

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Harold Merefield has had an entertaining evening and after staggering home from the Naxos Club, he finds a slight issue with going to bed – the corpse that has been left in it. The inquest claims death came from natural causes, but Harold can’t help but believe that there was more to it than that. Why would a stranger break into his flat and then drop dead?

Luckily, Harold has someone to turn to. He was engaged to April, the daughter of one Professor Lancelot Priestley, someone who has always found the world of crime intriguing. As he casts his analytical eye over the crime, he finds that there is so much more to the case than anyone would believe.

After my post on Dr Priestley yesterday, I thought I’d take a look at Priestley’s career through his books – namely the first, The Paddington Mystery, one from the middle, Death On Sunday, and the last, The Vanishing Diary. Now this one gets some bad press – the expert on Priestley, Curtis Evans, really isn’t a fan of this one. And he’s got a point.

There are a number of problems, but primarily, it’s rather dull. Priestley plays a fairly active role in proceedings, with Harold nosing around for a chapter, then Priestley joins in, and then the pattern repeats itself a few times. Harold, as anyone who’s read a Rhode title, will be Priestley’s assistant after this one, but here he gets much more of the action. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of action going on, with a couple of ideas in the carrying out the crime being pretty obvious to the reader.

As for the solution, it’s pretty silly, feeling more like it has come out of a Victorian melodrama than a Golden Age detective story, but there are some nice bits, mostly from Priestley himself. We see a few private moments concerning Priestley and the relationship between Harold and April. There’s a nice idea as well where Harold isn’t in any way accused of the murder, but is determined to get to the bottom of things partly because he just finds it interesting.

It’s not a strong debut, mostly because a lot of the plot is just rather dull, although there’s some fun to be had with the Communists in the early sections. It’s good that it’s being republished soon by the Collins Crime Club, but please don’t judge Dr Priestley and chums on this one – it’s pretty atypical. Worth A Look, for curiosity if nothing else.

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And so we come to the end of April – well, the last Tuesday in it anyway – and the Tuesday Night Bloggers draw to a close their arguments for inclusion in any list of great detectives. If you recall, this was inspired by the upcoming 100 Greatest Literary Detectives, soon to be published, and the omissions that naturally come from only selecting 100 characters (and including at least one very questionable inclusion…)

Any such title will come under some flak for its choices. You could argue a lot about the choices made by Martin Edwards in the highly-praised (with good reason) The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, and not just because there are 102 books in the list – honest, go and count them – but at least Martin makes a point of avoiding phrases like “Best” and “Greatest”. Because what makes a great detective? The crimes they solve? The character of the sleuth? The number of cases? Being the first detective from a certain subset, large or small, of our global society? It’s impossible to say – and as I haven’t read the compiler’s introduction to explain the choices, there may be good reason for the omission of some names to me that I would consider shoe-ins. But there is one that I feel has been overlooked. So far I’ve championed three sleuths that would never have made the list – Adrian Monk and Velma Dinkley (and friends) for obvious reasons and Anthony Bathurst for reasons of decades of neglect from uncaring crime fiction fans. Today though, I’m going to talk about Dr Lancelot Priestley. And friends.

Dr Priestley was the creation of Major John Street, writing under his pseudonym of John Rhode. Rhode’s books have been long out of print, bar the occasional reprint. Collins Crime Club have started to correct that with Death At Breakfast (good), Invisible Weapons (good), Mystery At Olympia (very good) and The Paddington Mystery (review very soon, but not very good), but there are sixty-eight other titles still out there.

Priestley debuts in the aforementioned The Paddington Mystery, referred throughout as Professor Priestley

“cursed with a restless brain and an almost immoral passion for the highest branches of mathematics. [He] occupied himself in skirmishing round the portals of the Universities, occasionally flinging a bomb in the shape of a highly controversial thesis in some ultra-scientific journal.”

Of his personal life, we are told that Priestley:

“solved his personal binomial problem by marrying a lady of some means, who, having presented him with April [his daughter], conveniently dies when the child was fourteen, perhaps of a surfeit of logarithms”.

Now I’m all for some mathematical phraseology – see The Mystery Of The Peacock’s Eye – but that’s weird. It’s worth pointing out that Rhode tones down his downright odd style of writing after this opening book. The notion of being a mathematician at times is stretched into other branches of science in some later books – in fact even in this one – and at least once Rhode refers to Priestley having patients (Death On The Boat Train) but speaking as a mathematician myself, it’s good to know that at least one of us is out there catching murderers.

At this point, Priestley has already been helping the police with solving crimes. When Harold Merefield, Priestley’s daughter’s ex-paramour, is implicated in a murder, Priestley gains all the details of the crime from Inspector Hanslet of Scotland Yard, “a friend of mine”.

Hanslet, who will go on to play an important role in the series, is described by Priestley as

“a man of very wide interests, as befits an officer charged with such important duties, and two or three years ago he happened to read a paper of mine on Methods of Psychological Deduction in which, I venture to say, I succeeded in refuting some very widely-accepted theories. Since that time he has often called upon me to ask my assistance in the correlation of scattered facts.”

This describes well the format of the majority of Priestley’s cases, especially from Pinehurst aka Dr Priestley Investigates (the eighth book in the series) onwards. Inspector, later Superintendent, Hanslet will be charged with the case and at some point go to see Priestley. Priestley gives some advice and may (or may not) go and actively take part in the investigation himself.

Priestley regularly holds dinners at his house on Westbourne Terrace (which he stays in even when the Blitz is terrorising London) for himself, Dr Mortimer Oldland, Harold Merefield (who becomes Priestley’s assistant after his first appearance) and Hanslet. After dinner, they discuss crime and inevitably Hanslet’s latest case. Each of the guests will propose theories and then pick holes in the other guests’ ideas and then Priestley will give some wisdom as to the direction the investigation should take. Until around 1945, Priestley will generally take an active role in the investigation in the latter part of the narrative, but he becomes less mobile as the series progresses into the post-war years, letting the police do all of the legwork.

Priestley’s attitude towards crime solving is worth a mention – he sees it at times as a pure puzzle. In a number of books, once he has deduced the murderer, he will distance himself from finding the evidence necessary to convict them, just nudging the police in the right direction. He sees himself as a facilitator rather than as a master detective, but at least one criminal escapes justice due to Priestley stepping back at the conclusion.

“Your progress, Inspector, is not unlike that of a man in rubber-soled shoes trying to cross a frozen pond. You take a step in one direction, but the slippery surface betrays you and you find yourself going off at a right angle.”

It’s worth discussing the police characters as Priestley is a sleuth who ages with his supporting cast – there are thirty-six years between his first and last appearance, so it’s conceivable that he ages in real-time. Superintendent Hanslet – not sure at which point he gets the promotion – is the primary police detective up until Hendon’s First Case [document not found yet] where the younger Inspector Jimmy Waghorn joins him at Scotland Yard. For the next few titles, they share the investigating duties, although, as you might expect from an actual police department, they usually but don’t always work together. For example in Invisible Weapons, each of them investigates one of the two murders. You could argue, however, that in this case it is a plot-driven reason, rather than realism…

By 1939’s Death On Sunday, Jimmy is doing all of the active sleuthing and in the following book, Death On The Boat Train, Hanslet has retired (although is now a regular at the Saturday evening dinners). Waghorn is now in charge, having acquired a wife in Death Pays A Dividend [document also not found yet], but he soon joins the War Office and Hanslet is re-recruited – he is the only sleuth in 1943’s Dead On The Track – but they cross paths in Men Die At Cyprus Lodge but Waghorn is back in charge by 1944’s Vegetable Duck and Hanslet retires for good. By 1949, Jimmy has been promoted to Superintendent Waghorn, but he still acts like an Inspector, never seeming to generate any regular underling to do his work (or at least not that I noticed).

Hanslet and Waghorn are an odd pair of fictional detectives – you could argue that they are the actual detectives in the later stories and Priestley merely a deducer. Priestley’s presence in the later books is so small that one newspaper described the newly released Murder At Derivale (mis-spelled Merrivale) (1958) as a Jimmy Waghorn mystery, with no mention of Priestley. Their abilities seem to fluctuate the match the needs of the plot – witness Jimmy’s thorough information gathering and deduction in the first half of Invisible Weapons while failing to even consider the fact that the person wearing the tramp’s coat (which had been talked about having been stolen) might not have been the tramp himself, but instead needs Priestley to spell that out to him. It seems odd that the slightly less talented Inspector Arnold got his own book in the Miles Burton Desmond Merrion tales, but Waghorn and Hanslet never get to upstage Priestley.

So what are Priestley’s finest cases? Well, as with any list (see the opening paragraph) it’s open to debate, but I’d go for:

  1. The Robthorne Mystery – the murder of an identical twin
  2. The Hanging Woman – how does the suicide of a woman tie into a nearby airplane crash?
  3. Peril At Cranbury Hall – a miscellany of murder attempts before the killer gets it right
  4. Shot At Dawn – a sailor below deck sleeps through the murder of his ship-mate
  5. Mystery At Olympia – was Nahum Pershore killed by an arsenic-laced olive?

So should Priestley be treated as a great detective? I certainly think so. Admittedly, a number of cases require him merely to state the bleeding obvious to his police chums, but John Street’s finest creation was very popular in his heyday – Dorothy L Sayers was a big fan, for example. And any crime solving mathematician gets my vote.

My apologies for talking about books that most of you will have a cat in hell’s chance of reading, unless the Collins Crime Club rapidly accelerates their reprint schedule, but I do recommend the first three reprints. And I also recommend not waiting around for The Paddington Mystery to be reprinted in order to start at the beginning because… ah, but that’s a story for another day. Tomorrow, in fact…

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Francis Pettigrew has retired from the justice system, ensconced with his wife in the beautiful county of Markshire, convinced that the future is filled with peace, quiet and natural beauty. He begins to find out a little more than he expects about his neighbours when he is recruited to fill in at the nearby county court. In particular, he has to make a difficult decision about the tenancy of a particular house, either decision he could make meaning someone will be homeless.

When the residing tenant is found murdered in the idyllic surroundings of Yew Hill, Superintendent Trimble investigates, but it falls once again to Pettigrew to find the murderer.

Cyril Hare aka Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark only wrote nine mystery novels along with some short stories, his most famous being Tragedy At Law. I wasn’t particularly impressed by that one (unlike virtually everybody else) but this one is a different kettle of fish.

It’s a beautiful read, Hare having a delightful turn of phrase, especially in describing the beauty of the countryside. My gut feeling is that Hare was writing from experience, as the notion of Pettigrew’s relaxed new life really comes vibrantly off the page.

Hare takes time to build the characters here and that care really elevate the book. The murder mystery is pretty straightforward, and in the hands of a lesser writer, this would end up being a disappointment, but the writing style helps the author get away with it, making this an entertaining read.

All in all, someone just reading this for the mystery may be disappointed, but the overall experience here is of a well-constructed novel with a decent enough puzzle. Well Worth A Look.

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