Monday, March 12, 2018

Coffin, Scarcely Used (A Flaxborough Mystery Book 1)

Author:  Colin Watson
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:   9780754086024; 9781601870162
Farrago Publishing
210 Pages
$36.96; $14.95; $.99 Amazon
February 22, 2018


In the respectable seaside town of Flaxborough, the equally respectable councillor Harold Carobleat is laid to rest.  Cause of death:  pneumonia.

But he is scarcely cold in his coffin before Detective Inspector Purbright, affable and annoyingly polite, must turn out again to examine the death of Carobleat's neighour, Marcus Gwill, former proprietor of the local rag, the Citizen.  This time it looks like foul play, unless a surfeit of marshmallows had lead the late and rather unlamented Mr. Gwill to commit suicide by electrocution.  ('Power without responsibility', murmurs Purbright.)

How were the dead men connected, both to each other and to a small but select band of other town worthies?  Purbright becomes intrigued by a stream of advertisements Gwill was putting in the Citizen, for some very oddly named antique items...


When one man is killed in a village it isn't really news unless a few months later another turns up dead - this time a suicide; and connected to the other.  Now, it seems at first all cut and dried, but to Inspector Purbright, a highly intelligent policeman, he knows that it's foul play.  But proving it is going to be another matter.

Not to mention that the reason for both deaths escape him at the time; he doesn't seem to have any headway by questioning the dead man's companions; nor does he get anywhere questioning his housekeeper.  But then, something occurs to him: it is only a matter of a book at the home of the deceased Mr. Gwill, and a list of repetitive advertisements that bring his attention.  And our intrepid inspector is on his way to solving a very intricate and detailed operation of the highly delicate sort that could just change everything...

What a delightful surprise this book was.  I have never read anything by Mr. Watson before, but I can tell you that I am going to read the rest in this series.  As far as British police procedurals go, this is one of the best.  I can almost see it come to life, with the late Alistair Sim playing Inspector Purbright; a man who knows in his gut what is going on around him, and uses his wits to discover the truth of the matter.

What seems at first as cut and dried isn't; and by use of several policemen Purbright manages to get all the pieces of the jigsaw and put them together.  And what a puzzle he has fashioned!  This is an older book, but masterfully written, and is right up there with the best of them. Murder, blackmail, and scandalous immorality are woven within indeed make for a remarkable mystery that is very well written.

When all is said and done and the ending comes, we realize how simply enjoyable it was to read.  I look forward to the next book by this late author.  Highly recommended.


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