Dead on Time (Clifford Witting)


A very good pub murder (similar to Ngaio Marsh’s Death at the Bar).  The first half—the bulk of the detection—has the genuine fascination of fact gathering, as the detectives build up a pattern of the complex movements of suspects around the building—a good, solid problem.  The second half returns to the semi-inverted form and the criminals of Michaelmas Goose: the masterminds and their plot (steal a Maharajah’s collection by hijacking lorries) are known, but their agent isn’t.  There’s some loss of interest—I prefer detective stories without gangs or criminal schemes—but Witting gets away with it.  The ending is very good: a genuinely clever and original method (zrygrq gbssrr cvyyf—jebat gvzr) with all the simplicity of Carr, and a hard to spot murderer.



BLURB

1948 Hodder & Stoughton

This witty, skilful writer pays his debt to detection like a man in this the Eighth Case of Inspector Charlton

Clifford Witting has annexed the territory of Lulverton – not forgetting the Blue Boar in the High Street. He has made us friends for life of the Downshire constabulary – not forgetting Detective-Inspector Charlton, C.I.D. And so it is very right and proper we should drop in on the stag party planned to celebrate Sergeant Bert Martin’s retirement after thirty years’ service.

“It was good while it lasted,” said Bert, putting down his empty tankard with a reflective sigh. “Bein’ in the Force, I mean. Lookin’ back over the long vista of the years…” But Bert had still until midnight before Bradfield was due to step into his shoes.

At nine twenty-five Jimmy Hooker was still very much alive, if a little the worse for wear, when he barged in on the party in the upstairs room. At closing time he was dead in the saloon. “And I don’t think,” said ‘Pop’ Collins, licensee of the Blue Boar, “that it was in the way of nature.”


CONTEMPORARY REVIEWS

Manchester Evening Chronicle: Enhances the author’s already high reputation.

Sunday Times: Amiable English country-town whodunit, feet on the ground, elbows on the bar counter. Mr. Witting has a light hand with policemen.

Birmingham Mail: An exciting series of events.

A Catalogue of Crime (Barzun & Taylor, 1989): Floor plan Pleasant Witting but far from gripping.  The crime is another pub killing, the motive rather loosely moored, and the foiled perpetrators pretty obvious from their first appearance.