The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude
by John Bude
As part of the British Library Crime Classics series, The Sussex Downs Murder is an authentic and enjoyable example of pre-war crime writing. It is very much of its time in style and attitudes. The characters are stereotypical of their type and place in the social pecking order. Superintendent Meredith and his colleagues are first led by assumptions, but as the tale unfolds, it becomes clear that not everyone connected with the case is what they seem.
Meredith is called in to investigate when local businessman and landowner John Rother goes missing. His car is found abandoned just a few minutes from his home when he should have been miles away on holiday. There are signs of a struggle but no sign of the man himself. The police’s initial thoughts are that he has been kidnapped. But when no ransom is demanded, Meredith begins to suspect a more sinister crime has been committed. This seems to be confirmed several days later when human remains are discovered.
As superintendent Meredith pieces the clues together the case begins to take some unexpected turns. The trouble is that none of the pieces fit together as they should. Like a poorly made jigsaw, to make one piece fit, another needs to be abandoned.
The Sussex Downs Murder is a product of its time. It is cleverly plotted and well written, but lacks the fully developed characters, pace and scope you would expect from a modern crime story. This not a bad thing though. There is a certain naivety to the narrative that I found endearing.
My only frustration with it is the way the narrative jumps from one set scene tp the next.
The plot is cleverly laid out and I was as baffled as the police themselves until I top began to see that shape of the missing pieces. And I have to say that I really liked the little twist at the end, so unusual for the time.
The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude
by John Bude
There seems to be a lot of interest at the moment in period dramas, particularly on the TV and film. There may well be a similar fashion in books, but I can’t say I have noticed it if there is. Certainly, following a crime set in a previous era brings with it some interesting twists – the lack of DNA, changes in technology and policing methods makes the work of the hard-pressed detective even more difficult. I have to admit that I myself enjoy these period pieces which I why I have enjoyed reading books in the British Library Crime Classics series, of which this particular work is one.
I don’t think that any modern writer could recreate the pace, prejudices and innocence of the 1930s like those authors who actually lived then. John Bude’s debut crime novel lacks some of the expected elements of the genre, even for the time, most notable being giving the reader the opportunity to work it out ahead of the police. But even there I can see Bude’s reasoning – we are seeing the case and clues through the eyes of the characters themselves which, in this case, does not include the guilty party.
Set in the Cornish fishing village of Boscawen, the story follows the investigation into the mysterious death of local magistrate Julius Tregarthan. Tregarthen may not have been a popular man, but he was respected and his death comes as a shock to all concerned. But it is the manner of his death that leaves local police detective INspector Bigswell ore than a little baffled.
He his aided – though he does not always see it that by – by local crime enthusiast and would-be amateur sleuth, the Reverand Dodd.
As suspicion move from one person to the next, our two detectives begin to uncover secrets, about not only Trgarthan himself, but also about those around him.
Although it lacks the pace and depth of a modern crime novel, The Cornish Coast Murder and in interesting and very enjoyable read. It is certainly a gem and typical of the period. Nostalgic certainly, but not in a bad way.
by John Bude
Originally published in 1935, this edition, released as part of the British Library’s Crime Classics series, is making a well-deserved reappearance.
The book opens with the discovery of a body in a remote Lake District garage. First impressions are that the victim, garage co-owner Jack Clayton, has committed suicide, but Inspector Meredith seems to think otherwise. As he begins to investigate the circumstances surrounding Clayton’s death, the more puzzling the case becomes.
Set against the backdrop of the beautiful north Lake District around Keswick and Penrith, John Bude’s novel has more twists and dead ends than a modern housing estate. The Lake District Murder may not be one of the best of its genre, but it does have plenty of clues to follow, even if the Inspector himself seems to miss a few until the very end. The book has an easy style with a plot that is simple to follow. The clues are there to be found and I enjoyed working them out as I went along.
An enjoyable bit of summer escapism, but more for the crime enthusiast.