This is the third in a very long series featuring the genial detective Inspector George Gently, he of the pipe and peppermint creams. This one is set in 1957 or thereabouts, and has the same faded postwar charm as its predecessors, describing an England which in reality probably didn’t survive the war, and certainly wouldn’t survive the brutal modernity of the sixties. This is an England where a landlady routinely provided three cooked meals a day for her guests, where everybody smokes and wealthy middle class suspects could be incredibly abusive to the police in their cut-glass accents and the police had no option but to politely grin and bear it. The past is a different country indeed.
Historical interest aside, the plot is a nicely convoluted affair, with a whole horde of suspects, all witholding information or outright lying, all in cahoots with one other, all with hugely plausible motives and a wonderfully tangled web of events to be teased into separate strands by our patient detective. Unlike previous books, this time our hero doesn’t just happen to bump into significant characters at exactly the right moment, or just happen to walk into the crucial location and conveniently spot a clue, he has to work things out from first principles. And this would be absolutely wonderful if only I hadn’t guessed the solution to the mystery instantly. Perhaps I’ve watched too many TV cop shows, I don’t know, but this one was really easy.
Nevertheless, I kept turning the pages just to see if I’d got it right and there were a satisfying number of red herrings. There are a few irritants, mind you. The cast of hick locals with unlikely regional accents is well to the fore and, sadly, just as irritating as in previous books. The author would do better to stick to straightforward English that needs less translation effort from the poor reader. Still, it doesn’t get in the way too much. This is a nicely gentle and readable story for those who can get past the odd accents and quaintness. Three stars.