Dull British drownings

Murder Jigsaw (E. & M.A. Radford, 1944)

Radford - Murder Jigsaw.jpgAn obnoxious fly-fishing colonel is drowned, apparently accidentally; “remarkably painstaking and meticulous examinations” prove that it was murder.

The setting is a small fishing hotel in Cornwall.  I know nothing about fishing; wet flies or dry, it’s simply dry.

This is very much in the Austin Freeman line.  Dr. Manson, head of the Scotland Yard Crime Research Laboratory, and Medical Jurisprudist of the national Police Force, is Dr. Thorndyke in policeman’s garb.  Armed with his Box of Tricks (a portable laboratory like the famous green despatch case), he collects samples of weed, pokes at bruises, studies heelmarks, lecturing prosily all the while.

It’s damn heavy-going.  Those who think that detective fiction is “a demonstration of the principles of organised and logical thinking, combined with close attention to detail” – without any character interest or imagination – will probably be enthralled.  I gave up in Chapter X.

The book (like many detective stories) needs a map; the investigators study a sketch map in Chapter VII, but the Radfords apparently didn’t include one.


Murder of Lydia (Joan A. Cowdroy, 1933)

Cowdroy - Murder of Lyida.jpgHere’s another “accidental” drowning, this time of a bathing beauty with an eye for other women’s men.  The book features apparently the first Asian detective in British crime fiction, Mr. Moh, and a young James Bond.  Before joining the Secret Service, 007 was a junior policeman in the County Constabulary.

The prose, though, is long-winded:

But here, on the southern cove of the Bay where the shore shelved abruptly to a deep drop, and beyond the solitary house behind the next groyne the beach dwindled to nothingness beneath the rocky spurs of the sharply rising heights of the promontory, which thrust its final point deep into a sea that broke against its sheer cliffs in a tumble of white foam, was solitude unspoilt.

To a practised swimmer – and Lydia was certainly that – the distance meant little save what, even for her skill, must be a stiffish test of endurance, if a brief one, in negotiating the strong set of the currants in the actual rounding of the point; though to one with less than her intimate knowledge of the currents, both the underground drag of the water in the sickle-blade curve which she had carefully avoided and the rough bit round the point, the feat might be highly dangerous, if not impossible.

Out at Chapter VI.

8 thoughts on “Dull British drownings

  1. Sorry you didn’t care for these, Nick. But I can clear DSP of one charge at least – there is no map in MURDER JIGSAW! All best wishes, Rupert


  2. I admire your ability to jettison a mystery story partway through, sincerely. I’ve always wished I had the agency to say, “Yes, this isn’t going to improve,” and spend no more time on it. Lately, actually, I’ve gotten a little better, but I still more often than not hold out till the bitter end. There are simply far too many authors to sample and not enough time to experience everyone who should be in the mix. Thanks, too, for providing reviews that help others make informed decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was more completist when I was younger; I tended to feel I had to finish a book, even if I skimread the last half! Life, as you say, is simply too short for reading books one doesn’t enjoy.

      Detective fiction is a very broad genre; just because a book has a dead body, a mystery, and an investigator doesn’t mean that two readers will enjoy it. There’s a world of difference (and, arguably, quality) between Chesterton or Innes on one hand, and Freeman Wills Crofts on the other.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Stumbling across a few mystery blogs, which will remain nameless to save JJ from embarrassment, I was shocked to find blogger after blogger rhapsodic about The Humdrums, Crofts in particular. Glad to see a dissenter or two (such as Kate).
        Can you name an opera with an undull German drowning?


    1. I haven’t heard Wozzeck yet (mea culpa, mea massima culpa!); expect it 2021/22! We’re into the 2020s already? Oy vey!


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