Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lion in the Cellar - Pamela Branch

First published 1951; cover shown is the 1962 Penguin Books (UK) paperback edition (No. 1703). Cover design by Sheila Perry. 190 pages.

The second of Branch's four comic/crime novels, Lion in the Cellar is the most outrageous of them all: this is a world where serial killers are funny, murder is hilarious and crime is so commonplace everyone's doing it.

Sukie Chandor née Heap comes from a long line of killers. Her great-grandfather invented the machine gun. Her grandmother was an axe murderer. Her mother, a killer and arsonist, is languishing in a madhouse. And her Uncle George is currently making impressive headlines as London's feared Strangler. Sukie herself has lived an innocent life... until now.

When Sukie is caught by her husband Hugh in the act of trying to conceal a body in the housemaid's cupboard, Hugh believes Sukie's unfortunate gene pool has caused her to commit the inevitable... but Sukie is no killer. What follows is a madcap adventure as the body (a certain odious little man named Mr Bentley) is ferried to the cellar of the local pub, swapped with a stuffed lion, and soon joined by a second corpse.

Sukie and Hugh are going to need professional help to get out of this confusing mess. Who better to ask than Uncle George, who is so skilled at his job that he has never been caught - much to his chagrin, as he'd like some acknowledgment of his achievements. The disposal of Sukie's corpses for her may just give him that.

Pamela Branch wrote Lion in the Cellar in a fisherman's cottage in Eire.

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