Thursday, February 6, 2014

Shelf Life: Review

The Colesworth police department has finally managed to haul in three teenaged vandals and have them brought before the magistrate court. But the women on the bench let the young hoodlums off with just a rather pointed warning. The arresting officer is disappointed. He's not the only one to leave court disappointed. Despite being let go, the vandals are none too pleased to have been read the riot act by those in authority and go off to meditate on their grievances. Joe Howlett, a local tramp who occasionally draws the attention of the law (on purpose) so he can get a bit of rest at Her Majesty's pleasure has been denied his regular room and board. The magistrates are on to his game and let him go with a warning as well. And, if he's brought before them again, they promise him that instead of a room at the gaol, he'll be assigned some work as community service. His day doesn't get any better when he goes off to his friendly fish and chips shop only to find that the owner is absent and his harridan of a daughter is in charge. She isn't about to waste the scraps and leftovers on a dirty, old layabout...and tells him so in no uncertain language. The desk sergeant (Watson) at the police station finds out that his daughter has been running around with Boyce--one of the young vandals. All of these disappointed and distressed lives are heading towards an event that will leave one dead and a cloud of suspicion over Colesworth's finest.

That evening Boyce is brought in roaring drunk and deposited in a cell to sleep it off. When Watson sends a fellow officer to check on the young man at midnight, Boyce is found to be dead. A reporter who got a bit of the brush-off from the police at the court happens to be on the spot when all the officials (police surgeon, Chief Constable, etc) show up to investigate and his nose for news leads him to the pertinent facts--a man the police wanted to put away and who has impregnated the sergeant's daughter has died while in police custody.  The morning headlines are enough to give the Chief Constable and Inspector Snell (head of the Colesworth force) a headache or two.

They quickly decide to call on the Yard to do an outside investigation (and hopefully prevent any cries of "cover up!") and they specifically ask for Chief Superintendent Masters and his special investigative crew. Masters has a certain flair for the oddball cases. And this is certainly one--for the autopsy report shows that Boyce was poisoned. And not by your run-of-the-mill arsenic or strychnine...oh, no. How about a little gold sprinkled in your wine (make that a lot of gold)?  An expensive death, indeed.

I always enjoy the Masters and Green series by Douglas Clark and Shelf Life is no different. The camaraderie and rapport of Masters' team is fun to watch and I enjoy watching Masters show the others how it's done. There is a hint of a feeling that Clark may be trying to complicate things and maybe pull a fast one, but the clues are laid out. I had no trouble figuring out how and once you know how, you've got the who. If you're looking for interesting characters and character interaction in a decent little police procedural from the early 1980s, then you will enjoy Clark's series of mysteries. Three and a half stars.

This fulfills the "Professional Detective" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.


fredamans said...

Great review!
Sounds interesting enough. I books that have general angst, and it seems everyone is pissed off except the kids who got off. Usually makes for decent reading!

Gram said...

I love this series and have almost all of them in pb. Thanks for the review.

Bev Hankins said...

Gram: I have a whole line-up of these waiting on the TBR stacks!