The Detective Wore Silk Drawers by Peter Lovesey

imagesSergeant Cribb has been tasked with improving the crime statistics at Scotland Yard – yes, even in 1877, target-setting was an issue. When a headless corpse is pulled from the Thames, Cribb identifies him as a bare-knuckle fighter, a highly illegal gambling activity that seems to be getting more dangerous by the day.

Recruiting a young police boxing champion, by the name of Henry Jago (yes, really), the partially pusillanimous and pugnacious puglist (all right, I’ll stop it now) goes undercover, gaining entry into Radstock Hall, a training camp run by the mysterious Mrs Vibart. Can Jago keep his cover intact before Cribb unmasks a murderer?

Book Two of the Sergeant Cribb series, and the third for me after the excellent Wobble To Death and A Case Of Spirits. Again, Lovesey has taken an aspect of Victorian society and has woven a mystery around it. I’ve returned to the series as (new reviews notwithstanding) I’m trying to focus on Golden Age mysteries and those authors that emulate them, due to the upcoming Bodies From The Library conference, and the other two books in the series fitted the bill perfectly. I did find myself a little disappointed with this one though…

I’d probably have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read the previously two, as this strays further than the traditional mystery format. There is a whodunit (although a very guessable one) but a lot of the plot is taken up with the shenanigans in the fighting camp with Jago, rather than focussing on Cribb’s work as much as I would have liked. It’s well-written and moves along at a swift pace, but there are large sections of the book where the mystery is barely discussed.

Still, there’s enough here to keep me coming back for more, so it’s Well Worth A Look. But I’d start with Wobble To Death though…

And as for that character name, this book post-dates The Talons Of Weng-Chiang by a few years, so I’m guessing it’s a coincidence rather than an homage. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, shame on you!


  1. Hello chum (you’re just blogging away like mad these days!) – always up for more Lovesey, even on a slightly lesser day! With reference to the classic Robert Holmes story, I think you mean that this book, from 1971, pre-dates rather than post-dates it, right?


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