Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hopjoy was Here (The Flaxborough Chronicles, Book 3)

Author:  Colin Watson
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780754086260; 9780571252855
Faber & Faber/Farrago Publishing
160 Pages
$21.95; $26.58; $3.99 Amazon


Within the quiet respectable market town of Flaxborough lurks a dangerous criminal:  someone who has no compunction in committing horrific crimes.  A secret agent has been murdered in unsavoury circumstances connected to an acid bath and it is up to Inspector Purbright to investigate, but it dows not take long for two or more operatives to arrive in Flaxborough looking for the same answers.  How can one of their colleagues have been murdered in such a bland, provincial town?  As ever Purbright must use all his skills as an investigator to get to the truth.


When Inspector Purbright receives an anonymous letter telling him to come to the home of a local because of mysterious happenings, he gets more than he bargained for.  It seems that someone has been murdered: dissolved in acid, if you will; and Purbright knows that two men lived in the home - Periam and Hopjoy - but since neither can be found, he has no idea whom it was.

However, help is soon on the horizon.  Appearing are two men of the government, apparently special agents, who tell him that Hopjoy was one of them and they need to know if the remains (such as they are) belong to him.  So Purbright does what he does best:  he sets his mind spinning and his men on the roundabout to find the remaining man and perhaps a killer.

What he does find is that one of the men remain, and he is on his honeymoon.  While Purbright believes (somewhat) that the man knew nothing about what was occurring in his home, he nevertheless continues to investigate, wanting to know the details.  And what he finds is not only disturbing, it seems the killer very nearly got away with it...

This is the third book in the series and a very good entry indeed.  Inspector Purbright is at it again, deftly maneuvering his superior Chubb into thinking that he's the one who's come up with the idea to continue the investigation (as he always does) while doing exactly what he wants to do anyway.  This time out, he has the dubious help of two agents, Ross (who gets a little more than he bargains for) and Pumphrey, who are conducting their own investigation but don't know the locals nor how to really deal with them but do their best.

The tale is well-told, and while this is an older book (written in 1962) I find that oftentimes the older books are some of the best, and this is no different.  It is deftly told, and the plot is well done indeed, with plenty of twists and turns and quite a few surprises.  While it feels we are on the same track as Purbright, when he is surprised, we are also.  And we discover the truth at almost the same time and have much the same reaction as him.

In the end, I would say that this series has not disappointed me and I truly enjoy Purbright's clever mind.  He is a marvelous British Inspector and I love spending time with him.  The ending is also a surprise - I imagine both to Purbright and the murderer - but please do not skip to it and read through because it is the journey to the end that makes it all worthwhile.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.


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