Sunday, August 14, 2011

No Case for the Police: Review

No Case for the Police by V. C. Clinton-Baddeley is an almost-vintage mystery. First published in 1970, it doesn't quite make my arbitrarily-chosen 1960 cut-off for the genre. But the feel of the mystery is very Golden Age. We have an older amateur sleuth--one Dr. Davie, an Oxford academic with a penchant for solving puzzles. In this particular outing, Dr. Davie is headed back to the village of his youth to attend the funeral of one of his oldest friends. So, there we have the standard British cozy set in the small country village. It's a set-up straight out of Agatha Christie.

Dr. Davie has been appointed literary executor for his friend Sir Robert Cassillis and while he is sorting through Sir Robert's papers and biographical manuscripts he finds an odd little notebook. Odd, because only four pages have any writing on them and because those notations reflect Sir Robert's disquiet over the "accidental death" verdict advocated by the local police and solemnized by the coroner's jury for his late neighbor Adam Merrick. Merrick took a fatal fall over the side of a local quarry. As Davie spends more time in the village and hears bits and pieces of the story from various residents, it becomes plain that it was rather strange for Merrick to have taken that particular route so late at night. What brought him to the path near the quarry? And if the fall really were accidental what could possibly have induced him to peer over the edge at a time when there was no chance of seeing anything? As the questions multiply, so do the motives...there are affairs to be covered up and blackmail to be stopped. There are antiques concealing mysterious little packets. And the number of people who were actually out and about at the same time Merrick met his death does seem just a bit....coincidental.

This is a fun, light British mystery. Dr. Davie is a very engaging character--I know him well from two previous outings. He knows his limits and often has to rest a bit and have a quiet "think" (read nap). No super-human genius here, just an nice, amiable academic mind that loves to get to the bottom of things. Davie has a way of getting people to talk to him and often leaves them wondering just why they did. Clinton-Baddeley sticks very close to the fair-play rules of the Golden Age and observant readers should be able to guess the solution right along with Davie. Very nice read--three and a half stars.

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