The Poker Game Mystery (2010) by Peter Bartram

Brighton 1965, and newspaper reporter Colin Crampton wasn’t expecting to find a dead body, but he got one anyway. Nightclub bouncer Steve Telford lies dead in his apartment with no visible sign of death. But laid out next to his body are five cards, spread out as if they were a hand of poker.

Colin soon finds himself investigating the Scallywags, an inappropriate named group of soldiers who were charged, during the war, with staffing bunkers in the UK, ready for action when the Nazis arrived. All that resulted was boredom and some of the things that you might imagine bored soldiers might get up to – not all of them pleasant.

Coupled with the fact that the Chronicle’s new owner has gambled the paper away to an Australian tabloid publisher, it will take all of Colin’s trickery to sort things out and catch a ruthless murderer.

A point of order before I go further: would someone in the UK know about Spider-Man in 1965? Yes, he’d been around for three years in the US, but Marvel UK didn’t start printing his adventures until 1972. And it’s Spider-Man, not Spider Man.

Right, that’s that out of my system.

If you’ve read any of the Colin Crampton mysteries before, you’ll know what to expect. A fair-play mystery, coupled with plentiful jokes, some good, some less so but told with enthusiasm, plenty of flirting between Colin and his Australian girlfriend Shirley and an incident-filled investigation. What you also get here is a dying message – two in fact – that put Ellery Queen to shame.

This is a fun read. It may be my imagination, but the Australian slang seems to have increased a fair bit in this one, although given there’s more than one such character this time, I suppose that makes sense, but I did get quite bored of use of “Sheila”. Australian readers, how much is that stereotype really used? But it matches the tone of the book, as Bartram writes in a deliberately old-fashioned, but enjoyable, style.

Fans of the series will want to check this one out already, and fans of classic mysteries really ought to give the series a try. What harm could it do?

This review is part of the #RandomThingsTours for The Poker Game Mystery. Do take a look at the other reviews.

For my other reviews of the Colin Crampton mysteries, then click here.

8 comments

  1. I remember reading a Spider-Man story in a friends comic in about 1967/68, I remember the year as we moved away in 1968. I think it was quite common for US comics to be shipped over here and to be available quite cheaply. Cheaply as we weren’t particularly well off and our parents wouldn’t have allowed us to buy them had the been expensive.

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  2. I remember reading Spider-Man, other Marvel comics and DC as well in the mid sixties. US comics were in colour and readily available very cheaply in our local newsagents in Lancashire

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  3. Sheila would hardly be used by anyone under 80 in Australia today. Back in 1965 it was a different story as it was in common usage but always considered a bit vulgar. It was more likely to be used by men in conversation amongst themselves.

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    • It’s used quite a bit to describe a female Australian character in her presence – although at best, it’s used in a cheeky way, but generally in a somewhat derogatory way. Thanks for the info

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