Front Page Murder by Peter Bartram

Christmas, 1963, but it’s not a Merry Christmas for Archie Flowerdew. He is sentenced to be hanged for the murder of rival artist Percy Despart, an artist with a less refined output – namely seaside postcards. But Despart had a habit of painting real people into his innuendo-strewn postcards and when an embarrassing picture of Flowerdew’s sister caused her death, Flowerdew vowed revenge on Despart, and he was soon arrested, charged and convicted. But he wasn’t the only person who had been affected by Despart’s shenanigans…

Inspired by Flowerdew’s niece, Colin Crampton, reporter for the Evening Chronicle, begins to investigate, and soon finds a possible criminal conspiracy to eliminate Despart. But finding out who killed him – if indeed Flowerdew was innocent – isn’t the only problem facing Colin. With the clock ticking down to Flowerdew’s execution, it’s going to need some convincing evidence to re-open the case… And that’s without mentioning Colin’s job being on the line or his landlady’s love-life…

The third novel (not counting novellas and short stories) from the pen of Peter Bartram to feature Colin and it’s as fun as ever. Colin is an entertaining narrator with a good line in wit, and the investigation bounces from suspect to suspect with some entertaining revelations along the way. Bartram takes some risks with the structure as well, unmasking the murderer well before the end, but keeping some revelations back for the reader as the identity of the murderer is far from the end of the story.

As I mentioned, there is a good line in humour running throughout the narrative, while still maintaining the serious tone concerning the fate of Flowerdew. The idea of a vengeful seaside postcard artist is a clever one and Bartram makes full use of it in setting up the motives. Like the others in the series, a lot of fun, even if the experienced reader may well spot the killer, with a lot going on that almost guarantees you won’t spot all the twists and turns coming. Recommended.

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