An Embarrassment of Corpses

Alan Beechey, Author Thomas Dunne Books $22.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-312-16936-7
In a delightful harking back to the mysteries of Margery Allingham and Michael Innes, this first novel's timeless tone is interrupted only when the police boot up their computers. London Detective Superintendent Timothy Mallard and his sergeant, Effie Strongitharm, are puzzled by a series of murders. Each victim was lured to death by a similar anonymous note promising money; each body bears an enigmatic chalk mark. Mallard's nephew Oliver Swithin, who writes children's books pseudonymously, joins in the chase (""...when Mallard had no idea what sort of expertise was needed, he found Oliver's vast store of useless information a useful starting point""). At first the investigation relies on a search for improbable coincidences and turns up an astrological connection among the victims in the sequences of their birthdays and the manner in which they've been killed. Then Oliver discovers they served on the same jury, which condemned a man to prison. When Mallard realizes none of these threads matter, he and Oliver cleverly smoke out the real culprit--whom, by very careful reading early in the book, readers will be able to identify. Waugh-esque names abound: Amelia Flewhardly, Miles Lipsbury-Pinfold, Underwood Tooth. Although it's occasionally precious, here's a witty, merry mystery with a touch of nostalgia. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 12/01/1997
Paperback - 232 pages - 978-1-4642-0244-5
Open Ebook - 978-1-61595-482-7
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