Murder, M.D. (Miles Burton)

  • By Miles Burton
  • First published: UK: Collins, 1943; US: Doubleday 1943, as Who Killed the Doctor?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was the first Burton I read, back in ’99, and I still think it’s the best.  Excellent village setting, with satire of the gentry; and good detection, as the detectives build up the timetable of the murder.  Surprising ending, with one of Street’s best-hidden criminals – and we should have spotted them!

Blurb (UK)

When the village doctor at Exton Forcett went off to the war, his place was taken by Dr. Weigler, an Austrian, and certainly a most skilful doctor, but, unfortunately lacking that very considerable asset—a good bedside manner.  The locum temens wasn’t exactly popular in the village.  There was even talk that he might be a spy of sorts.  Such were the prejudices, but none in their wildest surmises could anticipate the strange drama that was to be enacted in their village, or the sensation that the sudden appearance of C.I.D. men was to cause.

Blurb (US)

Dr. Kurt Weigler couldn’t understand the mentality of English villages.  He had lived in England for thirty years and felt he knew something about Londoners, but the stupidity of the farmers was beyond him.  He didn’t keep his opinions to himself; he didn’t have a bedside manner; nor did he feel it necessary to explain his rather peculiar actions.  Consequently he was thoroughly disliked by everyone from the squire down, and when Dr. Weigler fell off a cliff he was unlamented.  The probability that he had been murdered upset no one, not even the village police.  But when the charming young woman who replaced him also met death in an unnatural and vicious manner, the place was aroused and investigation began in earnest.

Miles Burton’s meticulous stories in the Scotland Yard tradition have always found a ready audience which will be pleased to greet this satisfying book with its lifelike village characters.

Contemporary reviews

Times Literary Supplement (Maurice Willson Disher, 11th September 1943): Exton Forcett, the scene of Murder, M.D., is a humdrum village.  Mr. Burton conveys the atmosphere well.  The village doctor has gone on active service and his place has been taken by an Austrian whose nature has nothing in it of the humdrum.  That is the beginning of troubles which cause murder mysteries, but the quiet country atmosphere is never seriously disturbed.

Weekly Book Review (Will Cuppy, 7th November 1943, 250w): Scotland Yard should derive better than middling entertainment from this one.

Sat R of Lit (20th November 1943, 30w): Good background and some amusing characters.  Sleuthing good enough—but the gambit is an old one.  Average.

NY Times (Isaac Anderson, 21st November 1943, 160w): The story gets off to a slow start because of what seems to be a too-close attention to details, but these details turn out to have a distinct bearing on the case.  The solution lies in the motive, which is skilfully concealed.