The last week has been busy, so I have enjoyed some amusing and undemanding reading: a couple of new names and an old favourite. The new names couldn’t be more different in approach. One is set in a small English town in the 1950’s where some of the criminal activities involve sending money in the post to purchase dubious goods. The other takes place in modern Dublin and is firmly in the 21 st century with blogs, vlogs, Googling and mobile phones. The old favourite is P D James Devices and Desires and is as good now as it was thirty-three years ago when I first read it.
Coffin, Scarcely Used was the first book in Colin Watson’s Flaxborough series with Inspector Purbright and Constable Love. Watson wrote twelve books in this series, the first in 1958 and the last in 1982, just before his death. Later books also have Miss Lucilla Teatime in on the action, but she is not in the first book of the series. Farrago Books are republishing the Flaxborough Chronicles on the basis that they are funny and witty and satirise the underbelly of English provincial life. The suspects are all worthies of the town. The undertaker, the newspaper proprietor, the doctor. They are up to something. Can they really be dealing in antique furniture when there is none to be seen? The answer to this problem is most amusing. A couple of people die. The policemen question and ponder. Purbright is a courteous and methodical fellow. Here he is discussing a report from two other policemen .
Purbright looked again at his notes.
‘What do you make of the “well-off looking man with trilby hat and small feet?” Small feet …what a curious thing for anyone to notice at that time of night.’
‘Not necessarily. When I used to be on nights I could tell some people by their feet. It’s the way they walk and the amount of noise they make. Those with little feet look rather like those prancy characters of Edward Lear – you know, walking on points.’
There is death by electrocution, drugs and a devious widow. All great fun. I have already acquired Bump in the Night and Hopjoy was Here, books 2 and 3 in the Flaxborough Chronicles.
Dead in Dublin : A Charming Irish Cozy Mystery (The Dublin Detective Driver Mysteries Book 1) is the first of three books in this style by writer Catie Murphy. Her heroine is Megan Malone, an ex- U S Army medic who ferries visitors to Dublin around for the Leprechaun Limo Service. Heavy on the Irish way of speaking with many sentences ending in ‘so’ and with loads of description of the transport system, historic buildings and arcades, but a bit light on good sentence construction,
Megan had been a lot of people’s driver since she moved to Ireland.
As this was on the first page it did make me distrust the writer, but I pressed on. Also on the first page Megan’s client, Elizabeth Darr, popular American food blogger, touring Ireland with her husband, dies at the feet of the statue of Molly Malone. Megan’s friend Fionnuala happens to own the restaurant where the victim has just had lunch. Has she died of food poisoning or poison? Megan tries to find out. We have cute puppies here, a growing attraction between Megan and the police officer Detective Bourke, and ongoing battles between Megan and her curmudgeonly employer Orla. All is set up for a long series of books. I don’t think I’ll go on. And with this one there were some incidents given great importance, that in my opinion were never explained satisfactorily.
Devices and Desires published in 1989 and the eighth novel of fourteen in P D James’ Adam Dalgleish series has everything. Excellent characters: Adam Dalgleish is a senior policeman who is also a poet, an introspective man who has had tragedy in his life, and who is given to reflection. Good themes: this story begins with a serial killer and grows into a debate about nuclear power. Tight plotting: no loose ends here, all is eventually revealed and satisfactorily resolved. And a wonderful sense of place. This novel is set in Norfolk and James’ descriptive writing is superb.
She smelt the resin of the pines before she passed between their slim spiky trunks. There were only fifty yards of sandy path, thick with fallen needles, between her and the shore. It was dimmer here, the moon glimpsed fitfully, sailing in majestic splendour above the high spires of the trees, now seen and now obscured, so that for a few seconds she had to switch on her torch. And now she passed out of the shadows and saw before her the white moon bleached sand and the tremble of the North Sea.
A most superior crime novel. Highly recommended.