1952, The French Riviera. Sun, sea, sand, and a ring of counterfeiters. OK, the last one isn’t traditionally associated with the Riviera, but that’s what summons Detective Inspector Meredith and Acting-Detective Sergeant Freddy Strang, in pursuit of the London villain Tommy “Chalky” Cabot. Bill Dillon, a soldier in the war, is also on his way to the Riviera and while they cross paths crossing the English Channel, they would not have expected to have the same ultimate destination as well – the Villa Paloma.
The Villa Paloma is the home of Nesta Hedderwick and a selection of family and hangers-on. But there are things bubbling under the surface. It seems that nearly everyone at the Villa is lying about something – and at least one of those lies is going to lead to murder. But with the forgers to catch, can Meredith sort out both cases? Or are they actually two cases?
First off, a tip to aspiring writers. Don’t give a male character a female forename as a surname and then keep calling them by their surname. I lost count of the times I tried to recall which of the female characters Meredith was. That’s probably just me though…
Ernest Elmore wrote thirty mystery novels under the pseudonym John Bude. You may recall the first three – The Cornish Coast Murder, The Lake District Murder and The Sussex Downs Murder – as some of the titles that really started the popularity of the British Library Crime Classics range, and now they’ve returned to Bude with a later book, the twenty-second in fact, from 1952.
It’s an utterly charming book, for the most part. Bude is a very readable writer, not something that could always be said for some of the authors of the Golden Age, writing with a charm and a light humour that made this an utter page-turner. I had the delight of a long train journey yesterday and this book made the time just fly by. It’s a sign of the quality of the writing that the titular “Death” takes an age to happen and, which is very uncommon for me, I didn’t particularly care. In fact this is the first of three books that I’ll be reviewing where this happens and each time, the tale was entertaining enough for it not the bother me in the slightest. You never know, I might even get round to reading a book without a murder in it at some point.
It’s not flawless – Bude still has a shaky grasp of physics, as demonstrated in the murder method in The Cornish Coast Murder and by something important here and one of the plots suddenly goes all Eastenders at one point [Non-UK readers should insert their own silly soap opera here]. And if you want a complex whodunit, then best to look elsewhere.
But regardless, this is a highly enjoyable read that kept me hooked from beginning to end. And it contains one of those Golden Age staples, the whirlwind romance, that, for once, I was actually convinced by. So for that bit alone, it’s Highly Recommended.
For a more detailed review (but with a similar opinion of it) why not pop over to Cross Examing Crime?