Sunday, November 14, 2010

Who Saw Him Die?

Doesn't the title of this book just beg one to read it?

Miss Lemon certainly thought so when she first spotted it it for sale at Second Story Books in Washington, D.C. 

Her curiosity didn't steer her wrong, either. Sheila Radley, in Who Saw Him Die? (1987), produces just the sort of smartly-written and atmospheric British mystery that Miss Lemon and her devoted readers demand.

When 'Clanger' Cuthbert Bell, Breckham Market's official town drunk, fatally meets his match with a Rover driven by 'Lucky Jack' Goodrum, no one seems terribly surprised. Clanger had been playing an inebriated version of chicken on the town's twisty roads for some twenty years. All the villagers agreed that an accident was only a matter of 'when' not 'if.'

Jack Goodrum still considers himself lucky, even before he's cleared of all charges at Clanger's inquest.

Even Chief Inspector Quantrill would never have heard of the incident, had not Cuthbert's sister, Eunice Bell, called him up to demand a criminal investigation. It seems to her that Jack Goodrum had reason enough to wish her brother dead.

It isn't until a nasty burglary and then an even nastier murder, however, that the circumstances of Cuthbert's demise are opened up -- but when they are, plenty of skeletons are trotted out of the closet.

Superbly paced and cleverly plotted, this is mystery just the way Miss Lemon likes it.

Perhaps the best thing, though, about Ms. Radley's mysteries are their Chief Inspector, Douglas Quantrill.  Miss Lemon couldn't help but be reminded of Horace Rumpole, as DCI Quantrill bemoans his marital state and the paltriness of his diet.

He also holds an inappropriate eye for his attractive sergeant, Hilary Lloyd, who's smart enough to put him off gently. But that doesn't stop Quantrill from trying, and these wind up as some of the most amusing scenes.

Who Saw Him Die? is the sixth book in the Inspector Quantrill series.