“Welcome, sir, to the Marlock Works, where we are excavating the nearby quarry? What’s that, you want to try out our remote blasting equipment? Well, you can press that switch there, but nothing will happen as we haven’t loaded any explosives. Yes, that did sound like an explosion to me. How strange, that shouldn’t have happened. But it’s Saturday afternoon. Nobody would have been in the quarry so no harm done, sir. Probably…”
When the body of the works manager is dug out of the debris, questions are raised about what happened, but at the end of the day, it was probably an accident, admittedly one that causes the man who had some responsibility for it to hang himself. That might have been the end of it, were it not for the somewhat nosey Everard Blatchington and the persistent Superintendent Wilson of CID…
I’ll be honest, I was dreading this one as much as Corpse In Cold Storage. The Coles contributed the second most tedious chapter to The Floating Admiral so I wasn’t desperately excited about the prospect of ticking this box on my “Unread Authors” list. So I was actually rather surprised by this one.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not one of the great works of detective fiction, but it’s not at all bad. I found Blatchington a bit of a bore – he’s sort of interested in detection but gets bored with it, eventually passing the whole thing over to Wilson, but once Wilson takes over, it does pick up, with the story getting some more focus.
The prose is never dull – something that I wasn’t really expecting to be honest – but there are times when the plot seems to be treading water. Similarly there are times when you can’t quite believe that anyone believes that a murder has taken place – the mechanism for making a murder seem like an accident is like something out of a Rhode novel.
The biggest problem is that a lot of the investigation seemed to relegate the suspects into the background so when the murderer is revealed, there is an element of “Who?” about it. In addition, the murderer is identified by some guesswork – it’s notable that the lack of evidence of their guilt becomes a plot point, as if even the authors admitting the problem.
So I gather, the early Cole titles are the ones worth digging out – I was lucky enough to stumble upon a cheap copy of End Of An Ancient Mariner the other day – but you’ll need a better authority than me as to which exact titles are worth the investment. I gather that the later books go downhill pretty damn fast. But if you were to come across a copy of this one, why not take a look?