Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bump in the Night (A Flaxborough Mystery #2), by Colin Watson

Farrago, ISBN 9781788420143, March 2018 (original publication 1960)

The town of Chalmsbury experiences a series of explosions that blow up monuments and landmarks, and the small town's police force is making no progress. Flaxborough loans DI Purbright to conduct an investigation--one perhaps less hampered by being personally connected, for good or ill, to every possible suspect.

Police chief Hector Larch is married to Hilda, daughter of Councilman Pointer. Local haulage magnate Stan Biggadyke is having an affair with Hilda, and last year, had a car accident that killed a young woman. Biggadyke's long history of malicious pranks includes having tormented Barrington Hoole, local optometrist, since their school days.

And Larch, sadly, thinks aggressive bullying is the way to question suspects and make them spill what they know.

What most of the town doesn't know is that Larch attends weekly civil defense training in Flaxborough, where he teaches explosives handling. A supply of explosives has gone missing, more than enough to account for the explosions so far.

Purbright takes lodging in Chalmsbury, and sets about piecing his way through gossip, innuendo, colorful local stories, adultery, and hidden secrets, to find the culprit.

This is a police procedural series from the late 1950s and early 1960s. It has a slower, gentler pace, with an arch sense of humor lurking in the corners. (What my Mom called a British sense of humor. What my Dad, and I, and the Irish/French side of the family called, "how we make jokes and cope with stress.) It's enjoyable, pleasant reading, when you want to engage your mind rather than looking for a more emotional read.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.