Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Playground of Death: Review
Playground of Death by John Buxton Hilton is the seventh in his Inspector Kentworthy series.Kentworthy has his own peculiar way of investigating matters that makes him something of a puzzle to the local constabulary when he is sent along by Scotland Yard to tend to cases that need an outsiders touch. But he also has a certain flair that allows him to find the solution that others miss.
Such is the situation in Filton-in-Leckerfield. Roger Bielby, a former mayor and all-around big-wheel in the Lancashire town was arrested for the shooting death of his wife Maggie. But he never made it to his initial hearing--he was shot himself by an as-yet unknown killer while on his way into court. The circumstantial evidence against him was quite strong and the local authorities have no doubt that he would have been convicted had he been allowed to face trial. But when Kentworthy examines the case notes and visits the crime scenes, he's not so sure. And then when he reads the journal Bielby had been working on in jail, he becomes convinced that the crimes have roots in the past. Bielby's journal is full of memories growing up in the slum area of town--a child with no father, skirting the law and getting into trouble until his father show up to marry his mother and to try and give him a respectable life. A stint in the army during the war seemed to point him onto the straight and narrow and he returns to his home town a war hero determined to better himself. Hidden in those memories are clues to current events and Kentworthy manages to trace the clues a solution that will surprise the village even more than an accused and murdered ex-mayor.
There must be something about the Kentworthy stories that keep me coming back. At least, I do keep picking up new entries in the series as I find them--but I consistently give them between two and three stars and never more than that, so I'm not quite sure that I can pinpoint what the overall appeal is. This one comes in for ★★ and a half. And most of the star power is for the historical framing of the story. The journal entries, which comprise almost the entire first half of the book, are some of the most interesting parts. The final wrap-up relies heavily on information from those entries and on current interviews with key players from that time period. Kentworthy is his usual peculiar self and his investigation has a somewhat disjointed feel (something I've noted in a few others in the series), but overall a decent police procedural story.
This fulfills the "Historical" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card as well as providing Clue #2 in the Super Book Password.