Brad and I are huge, HUGE fans of British mysteries, be they written or televised. I am currently working on some posts that detail our great love of British mystery TV shows and our collection of British mystery novels, but in the meantime, I thought a review of such a work would tide us over.
I think cozy mysteries are especially delightful with their quaint settings, village locals, and (usually) amateur detectives. The Cornish Coast Murder is a cozy mystery set along, you guessed it, the Cornish coast. It is not part of a detective series but is a stand alone novel with the village vicar as our amateur crime-solver. I love delving into a series with a singular detective throughout, but stand alone novels can sometimes be just as good.
I own the British Library Crime Classics version. Hooray for anyone who will reprint these books! There are probably many books from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction by less well-known authors that get overlooked, so it’s nice to know that there are people out there printing such work. My copy was a Christmas gift from my husband’s co-worker and his family. They are also avid British mystery readers and gave us this and Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel Hay (also a British Library Crime Classics book) one year. Gifts like this warm my book-loving, mystery-reading, should-have-been-born-British little heart.
Title: The Cornish Coast Murder
Author: Ernest Elmore (under the pseudonym John Bude)
Format I Read: British Library Crime Classics paperback
Synopsis: Julius Tregarthan, the miserly village magistrate who lives in the big house on the cliffs overlooking the sea, is murdered; shot through the head while looking out his sitting room window. It is clear someone shot him from outside, but there are no footprints on the cliff path or anywhere near the window. The local inspector is diligent in collecting clues but is still stumped by contradictory evidence at every turn. Luckily, Reverend Dodd, the village vicar, is a voracious reader of crime novels and is ready to lend a helping hand in solving what seems like an impossible crime.
Thoughts: I enjoyed reading this book, but I would not recommend it for anyone just getting started with cozy mysteries or golden age detective fiction. After you have sunk your teeth into the genre, this book comes as a nice little filler. The mystery is good, the characters are mostly likable (except for Tregarthan, but don’t worry, he gets murdered very early), and the descriptions of the coast, the village, and, the big house on the cliff, Greylings, really pull you into the setting. You can easily see the house in your mind and walk the cliff path down Boscawen village and out to the docks.
The story, however, is a bit meandering, taking its time to come to any type of point or conclusion. It’s been said that this could be an example of the very beginnings of the police procedural, and I can definitely agree. Despite the fact that the Reverend Dodd is our amateur sleuth and touted somewhat as the main character, we don’t see as much of the good Reverend as I would have liked. The main character of the story is really our local police detective, Inspector Bigswell. We follow him through every iteration of the crime, every clue, every interview, every false step, every new clue, every re-interview…maybe you get my drift. This is where the book, to me, becomes slightly tiresome. It takes place over the span of less than a week. The murder occurs on a Monday, and the killer is caught on Saturday, but it feels like a much longer ordeal as we are given every detail of the Inspector’s investigation. The Reverend Dodd makes it known early on that he has a theory on the case, and we only come back to him each time the Inspector gets muddled and needs a fresh perspective. The Reverend plays a bit more heavily in the conclusion which I enjoyed. I wish we could have gotten more perspective of and from the Reverend and the villagers. Except for the opening and closing chapters, almost everything is filtered through Bigswell’s investigation.
That being said, I was glad I read this book. It tends to drag a bit in the middle, but I really did care about the characters and wanted to know who murdered Tregarthan. Despite it’s shortcomings, I never considered not finishing it. I knew it would be worth it in the end, and it was. The ending was clever, although we are not given enough clues to have been able to work it out on our own. Like many cozies, this is one where the mystery ends up being secondary to getting swept up in the settings and the characters. I wanted to know who the murderer was, but the actual identity didn’t matter in the slightest. If you love cozy mysteries, I would recommend this as an easy, pleasant read that is worth your time.