Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Plaster Sinners (A Flaxborough Mystery #11)

Author:  Colin Watson
Genre:  Mystery

[Hardcover; Paperback;] Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780385173384; 9780413516701
Farrago Publishing
160 Pages
[Various Prices]; $3.99 Amazon
July 12, 2018 (Reissue)


Sergeant Love is a sucker for a picturesque country cottage.  

But he finds himself quite literally knocked out by the little bas-relief plaster cottage that's on display at Flaxborough's antiques auction.  This pretty but rather crudely painted trinket mysteriously sells for hundreds of pounds having sparked a heated bidding war, while the Sergeant gets floored by a would-be cottage thief.

So DI Purbright, teamed up with a world-weary brother officer down from London, must dig deep into the dubious past of the local gentry, the laconic Moldhams, in their crumbling stately pile, to find out how the little plaster picture leads to a tale of heirlooms and murder.


Sergeant Sidney Love has some time before he's scheduled to go to work, so he stops at an auction.  While there he sees a box of supposed junk items, and among them is a plaster cast of a little cottage.  Sergeant Love thinks his young lady would enjoy this, and he's decided to bid on the lot.  But while standing there he doesn't notice the man right behind him, the one who has a heavy doorknob in his hand.  He also doesn't notice when the man hits him in the back of the head with the knob, sending him straight to the floor.

While unconscious, the man attempts to remove the plaster picture from Sid's hands, which are underneath his body, but is unable to do so.  Upon waking, he realizes that no one has seen anyone about.  An ambulance is sent for, and they don't take him seriously when he tells him he's a police officer nor that some unknown person hit him.

While at the hospital, he is visited by Detective Inspector Purbright, who takes the matter very seriously.  After getting the details from Sergeant Love, he decides to visit the auction himself and tells someone there that they are not to release the contents of this lot, regardless of the purchaser.  He is surprised when the bidding tops nearly 400 pounds.

Once he discovers who the fingerprints on the knob belong to, things get even more interesting.  And when a detective inspector from London arrives because he knows of the attacker, the story becomes even more bizarre as they start digging into the origins of the box of rubbish.  When a body turns up in the river that is connected to the case, Purbright finds that he now has a murder on his hands as well...

This book is another delightful entry in the Flaxborough Chronicles written by Colin Watson.  It is quite as involved as all the others, and we are given bits and pieces throughout the story that all eventually connect to each other.  Purbright is always enjoyable to read about and I love the methods he uses while solving a case.

We follow Purbright and crew as they dig into the reasons why anyone would be interested in a cheap plaster cast of a cottage.  What we come away with is the fact that all is not what it seems, and someone was - and still is - willing to do whatever it takes to keep the cottage in the hands it was intentionally meant for.

The mystery itself was a tight one, with all the threads weaving together nicely at the end.  It is always fascinating to see the means people will go to in order to keep their secrets hidden, and makes me grateful that I will never know any like this group of miscreants.  Recommended.


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