The Sussex Downs Murder is the BLCC listed on my 10 Books of Summer challenge, but the sea side bookshop I was in only had this one on its shelves, so I stayed with Meredith but on his home patch of Keswick in the Lake District and in 1935 while he’s still a lowly Inspector.
The setting is lovely and having read a couple of other Meredith mysteries it was interesting to see where he came from. The small towns are filled with amiable shop keepers, burly farmers and friendly bank managers and everybody, no matter how criminal carries a dinner basket. His son Tony is an eager to help seventeen year old and his wife worries over the amount of work he does. It’s all very domestic.
But trouble arrives from the south (!). There’s a particularly grizzly suicide in a garage on a lonely stretch of road, and as the investigation gets under way one puzzle just leads to another, and was it suicide after all or could it have been murder? There seems to be a shadier side to these normally quiet coastal towns. But Meredith, on his first solo investigation, puts the whodunit on hold and even the whydunit as he sets out to prove the howdunit.
Piece by piece Meredith explores with meticulous precision the case as it unfolds, always polite and fair, snatching a hasty meal where he can and jumping on his combination (not in this case an arrangement of womens’ undergarments ,but a motor bike and side car) until from scant clues he is able to bring a case against the guilty.
The crime is ingenious and Meredith’s clue hunting at times was really exciting but when a crime is set in a garage, however exciting the plot, the clues can’t help but be about tanker capacities and at one time hose lengths, which I did find unutterably dull and Meredith is thorough!
Still, it picked up at the end and Meredith was given a very well deserved promotion – not the dizzy heights of Scotland Yard, but he’s on his way.