Sunday, November 12, 2006

Murder Every Monday - Pamela Branch

First published 1954; paperback copy pictured by Penguin Books (UK) 1956.

It has been 14 years since Clifford Flush has murdered anyone. When he finds himself overcome by an irresistible impulse and attempting to push a member of his bridge club in front of a bus, Flush realises that the tiger inside him has definitely not been tamed.

Knowing that he must do something to keep his mind off killing people, Flush enlists the help of his friends, all of whom have been wrongfully acquitted of at least one murder. They purchase a huge and ugly mansion in the lonely wilds outside of London, and begin a new life as Homicide Consultants.

Flush, Mrs Barratt, Colonel Quincy, Dina and The Creaker teach classes on Knots and Tourniquets, Electricity, Alibis, Anatomy, Forensics, Firearms, Accidents, Manipulative Exercises, Single and Double Edged Weapons, Water and Ju-jitsu. Students begin arriving from every corner of the globe, and Flush is soon able to boast of many success stories among his former pupils.

Then, on the 26th course, irony strikes. The bodyguard of an American mobster who is sitting the course turns up dead in the pool, and it certainly isn't a natural death. Flush sets out to find out who has committed this incredibly clumsy murder. There are more than a few suspects, staff included.

Murder Every Monday was Branch's third book (she wrote only four before her death in 1967 at the age of 47), and in my view her best. Witty, always-entertaining and slightly macabre, with a great cast of characters (The Creaker, whose crimes are too gruesome to be fully revealed, is terrifyingly hilarious!), it is a true gem of a crime novel.

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