The weather can be variable in Cornwall in August, but at least you are not lying dead in your home with a bullet through your forehead. Julius Tregarthan of Boscawen village is, however, and Reverend Dodd is determined to find out whodunit. From the title onwards, The Cornish Murder Mystery has the air of a slightly more grown up Enid Blyton book: the reader has no chance of finding the identity of the murderer but following the story is fun. The clues stack up although the footprints in the mud are confusing and Mrs Mullion may not be correct about what she saw in the darkness. Apparently the fact that the three shots (one of which hit its target) seem random means that a woman probably did it. They can’t fire guns straight, you see. Another thought: do the police really let clergymen help with their investigations? Crime fiction is drawn to the gifted amateur*, of course, with Miss Marple, Nancy Drew, Father Brown and Lord Peter Wimsey making up a pretty good back four, the Famous Five across the midfield and Sherlock Holmes as lone striker up front. It doesn’t really matter who’s in goal: when you’re this clever, the opposition is never going to get a shot in. Inspector Bigswell is not so bright, which might explain why he does seem to have missed a fairly basic trick in not establishing exactly where the shots would have come from. But fortunately the vicar is there to help him out with some rolls of string and a couple of stakes. This moves things forward significantly. The British Library, presumably as part of its pastoral mission, does a good job of rescuing obscure authors and giving them the light and the dust jackets they deserve (the design of this Crime Classics series is particularly pleasing). John Bude is worth a look.
* Frankly, Dodd doesn’t belong on the same pitch as this lot. Having solved the crime, he then decides he doesn’t want any part of the detective business. ‘Never again did he want to find himself caught up in the sordid realities of a murder case. He felt utterly dispirited.’ The chap needs to buck up.