Grandchildren, bad back, gardening, bad back, out and about, bad back and this has been my lot over the last month and only just emerging from feeling pretty dire.
So I need to get a grip and to catch up on books read though most of the time I have been lying flat on my back unable to hold onto books for too long, and watching cricket instead and rejoicing in England's abject performance which was entirely predictible and thoroughly deserved. But I won't go there....
The Lake District Murder and the Cornish Coast Murder - John Bude. These books are part of the British Library reprints of unknown and undiscovered murder mysteries written in the thirties. However, these are light years away from Dame Agatha or DL Sayers and Wimsey, Ngaio Marsh and Roderick Alleyn and other luminaries of that era, all of which I adore. This is more matter of fact, more solid police work and no flights of fancy so if this is not your cup of tea, look away now.
A body is found in an isolated garage and Inspector Meredith is called in to what seems a straightforward suicide. Seasoned mystery readers will now that of course this is not so and as the investigation continues it seems that every clue or question leads to another puzzle. The dead man was leaving the country, keeping this very much to himself. Why was he going? Was he trying to escape from his involvement in organised crime and to start a new life with his fiance?
This mystery is set in the Lake District, an area I have visited and, while I do not know it well, I recognise the place names, locations and of course the description of the wonderful landscape. However, the author focusses on a small location and its surroundings, its minutiae and details and this is what makes this book so absorbing. No flash cars charging around the countryside, no frills, no furbelows. If he wants to see his boss, Meredith hops on a bus or a train. If he is keeping an eye on somebody and needs transport it is a motorcycle with a side car. No squealing breaks, no sirens, no shouts of Go Go Go from him.
The uncovering of the racket is worked out by the most meticulous calculations of petrol lorries, their loads, their deliveries, capacity etc and at one stage I was reminded of D L Sayers, contrary to what I have said above, when all this is considered and mulled over. I thought of the code to be cracked in Have his Carcase and the details of the bell ringing in The Nine Tailors. The calculations were all Greek to me but I hugely admired the precision and the skill with which it was done. Same here.
Inspector Meredith is a good soul. He works hard, he goes home for his lunch, he has high tea, a lively son and a wife who is not fond of his profession but he gets things done. He may not be as glamorous as Wimsey or Alleyn who, let's face it, would be a pain to meet in real life, but I liked him.
A satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable read. I now have The Cornish Coast Murder lined up.
If I have one caveat it would be that John Bude is over fond of the use of exclamation marks.....other than that, a great find and more please from the British Library.