The Cornish Coast Murder, republished to great acclaim in 2014, was my introduction to the British Library Crime Classics. I’ve since read several and enjoyed them, with more in my to read list.
Reverend Dodd, vicar of St Michael’s-on-the-Cliff, enjoys his Monday evening dinner engagements with Doctor Pendrill. Boscawen is a small isolated fishing village on the Cornish coast and both the vicar and the doctor look forward to their weekly meetings. Over an after dinner coffee they open the crate of library books each takes a turn in choosing, most commonly crime stories which they’re both addicted to, and are discussed in detail. Reverend Dodds has become quite good at solving mysteries by recalling previous twists, traps and detection methods, whereas they are proving a little more difficult for the doctor.
One stormy Monday evening there’s an urgent phone call to the vicarage from Ruth Tregarthan, looking for the doctor. Her uncle has been shot at his house. For all the enjoyment he has reading about it, Reverend Dodds never imagined there could ever be such a crime as murder committed in this quiet little village. Julius Tregarthan wasn’t an easy man to like but what could have made someone shoot him? Inspector Bigswell is the investigating officer but Reverend Dobbs can’t help but put his amateur detecting skills to the test, giving the inspector valuable help along the way.
I’d been meaning to delve into the British Library Crime Classics for a while. The Cornish Coast Murder is Ernest Carpenter Elmore’s debut novel written, under his pen name of John Bude, in the mid 1930s. The setting of this one appealed to me initially and, although the pace is quite slow after the atmospheric opening scenes, it does pick up.
There are several suspects, including Ruth Tregarthan and her friend, local author, Ronald Hardy. Ruth has been acting strangely and Ronald suffers from shell shock and has disappeared. Inspector Bigswell finds various contradicting clues and follows the trails, each one leading to a dead end. The reader has no prior knowledge of events, only privy to what is apparent to the police and the vicar, so working out who the culprit is was impossible – for me, anyway. Well before the advent of forensics, data collection and the more modern methods of policing we’re used to, the investigation comes down to good old fashioned police work, following the convoluted clues one step at a time. An entertaining story written in the style of the time, giving a glimpse into pre war rural life and good enough to make me want to read more.
The Reverend Dodd, vicar of the quiet Cornish village of Boscawen, spends his evenings reading detective stories by the fireside – but heaven forbid that the shadow of any real crime should ever fall across his seaside parish.
This classic mystery of the golden age of British crime is set against the vividly described backdrop of a fishing village on Cornwall’s Atlantic coast. It is now republished for the first time since the 1930s with an introduction by the award-winning crime writer Martin Edwards.