In the peaceful seaside town of Broadgate, an impossible crime occurs. The operator of the cliff railway locks the empty carriage one evening; when he returns to work next morning, a dead body is locked inside – a man who has been stabbed in the back.
Luckily, Jimmy London, newspaper reporter, is convalescing in the seaside town and meets Aloysius Bender the lift operator, just after he has discovered the body. The police are called and along with the local constabulary comes Inspector Shelley of Scotland Yard, whose staying in the area with his friend the Chief Constable. Jimmy London and Inspector Shelley have worked together before and distrustful of the local dunderheads decide to team up together to solve the mystery.
I’ve had this on my shelf for quite a while and must admit I’ve been put off by Jimmy London’s first person present tense narration and by the chapter headings which all begin with ‘In which . . . ‘, ‘In which I visit an Inn‘, ‘In which We Compare Notes’ . . . urghh, it seemed like a very annoying book with a fun title and a lovely cover!
But actually it was a lot of fun! I found Jimmy London, who is a strange mixture of wheeling and dealing and getting the story at all costs and boyish naivety, really quite charming and he often made me smile. The chapter ‘In Which an Emotional Crisis is Surmounted’ begins:
‘I don’t know if you’ve ever sat in a fisherman’s pub opposite a women in tears, a women, moreover, whose fiancé has just been accused of murder. If you have you will know that I felt about as uncomfortable as a man well can.’
His chatty style keeps the mystery going at a steady pace with plenty of clues and characters until sometime near the end when I became genuinely anxious for his safety.
First published in 1950 this is more a light and breezy mystery than one to tax the brain, but as well as the likeable Jimmy I enjoyed the setting. The ‘locked room’ being a cliff railway carriage was very evocative of the traditional seaside resort of boarding houses and ice-cream; and this was interlaced with references to real murders of the time and the everyday realities of living in post-war Britain, including newspaper rationing and black market scams and when half a pint of beer cost ‘tenpence’.