Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Coffin, Scarcely Used - Colin Watson

First published 1958; cover shown is the 1962 Penguin Books (UK) paperback edition. Cover design by Germano Facetti.

Six months ago Harold Clarobleat, reputedly the owner of the town's first television aerial, quietly died in Flaxborough. Now one of his friends, Marcus Quill, has been found electrocuted at the base of a pylon, his mouth stuffed with marshmallow. It looks like suicide... but Detective Inspector Purbright is certain it's murder.

The Flaxborough police don't have much of a reputation when it comes to solving major crime, and Purbright's suspects don't seem to take him too seriously. But he plods along, causing much chagrin to his Chief Constable, who would much prefer that the deaths of Clarobleat and Quill be of natural causes.

Soon Purbright has uncovered a complicated prostitution racket, run by the local doctor, lawyer and undertaker, and catering for local gentlemen (including, we later discover, the Chief Constable himself). Clarobleat and Quill were the founding members of the racket, and now both are dead. The lawyer, Rodney Gloss, soon follows them when he is knifed on his front step.

When Nab Bradlaw, the undertaker, conducts a sudden cremation, Purbright arrives just in time to pull the coffin from its fiery resting place. It seems he was too late to stop another murder... but it's the body inside the coffin that provides the biggest shock of all.

This was my third Flaxborough novel, and I was entertained as always. Watson is incredibly witty, with a great talent for humorous description. And I still have 10 more in the series to look forward to! I just have to find them...

No comments: