A Nameless Coffin (1966) by Gwendoline Butler
During a particularly hot June, a rash of purse slashing and snatching breaks out on Inspector John Coffin's patch in London. The thief isn't consistent and a week may go by without an incident, but just when the police think he has stopped there is another outbreak. Meanwhile, in Murreinhead, Scotland, a similar slashing outbreak occurs--but this time it's coats. Coffin is convinced that something worse is brewing and he's proved right when Giles Almond, a clerk of the Murreinhead Court, is attacked and slashed across the stomach. Almond successfully fights off the assailant and isn't hurt too badly, but the same can't be said for the missing Murreinhead woman whose body is found in an old apartment building in London destined to be knocked down to make way for new flats. Why was the woman in London? What connects the two towns? And why is an old woman the next victim on the list?
***************Spoiler ahead. Read at your risk.************
It's been a while since I've read any of the Coffin books, but I don't remember the writing being so disjointed. The narrative jumps around from Coffin's point of view to that of Giles Almond primarily, but also among some of the other characters. The way it's handled is very jerky and the story just doesn't seem to flow properly. There is a lot of potential for an early look at a young psychopath and Coffin's investigation could have been so much more interesting if the narrative had just hung together properly. It's pretty obvious who the culprit is from a very early point in the narrative. I'm afraid my last read of 2022 has been a disappointing one--though I do like that cover--the reversed black and white, pen and ink style with the almost glow-in-the dark green really caught my eye (and would be the reason I picked it for my last category in the Vintage Scattergories Challenge). I had hoped for a much stronger outing with Inspector Coffin. ★★ and 1/2
First line: Agenda for the Burgh Court of Murreinhead, Angus, Tuesday, May 12th, 196--.
Last line: So perhaps this was the real ending to the case.
Deaths = 5 (three stabbed; one natural; one bomb)