This book is the tenth in Catherine Aird's 'Inspector C. D. Sloan' series, and was originally published in 1982. My husband and I both enjoyed these ingenious British mysteries starring Inspector C.D. Sloan and his clueless side-kick, Detective-Constable Crosby, and I was happy to see them come out on Kindle so I could read them all over again.
The procedurals are set in the fictional County of Calleshire, England which very much resembles the County of Kent where Catherine Aird (the pseudonym of novelist Kinn Hamilton McIntosh) lives. The acerbic Dr. Dabbe, Calleshire's pathologist makes an appearance in "Last Respects" and I can't help wondering if the fictional physician was modelled after Aird's own father, a doctor whose practice she assisted in.
Here are three of her lightning quick character sketches, two of them weighted with literary allusions:
"‘I suppose,’ snorted Superintendent Leeyes, who was a sound and fury man if ever there was one, ‘that you’re going to tell me that everything makes sense now.’"
" ‘Just as you say, Mr Ridgeford,’ said Horace. He felt no rancour: on the contrary. Like Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s hero, Ivan Denisovich, he was a great one for counting his blessings."
"‘As to his race' ... ‘Caucasian,’ said Dabbe, reaching for his surgical gown. Detective-Constable Crosby jerked his head dismissively. ‘Oh, he’s a foreigner then, is he?'"
Another literary device the author employs is the silent aside, mostly from Inspector Sloan. The reader obtains much insight into the case and Sloan's personality through these asides. Here, Sloan is commenting on a dead man's hair: " ‘Short back and sides,’ observed Sloan. That, in essence, would tell Superintendent Leeyes what he wanted to know. For the Superintendent the length of a man’s hair divided the sheep from the goats as neatly as that chap in the Bible had sorted out the men whom he wanted in his army by the way in which they had drunk at the edge of the water. He’d forgotten his name … ‘Short back and sides,’ agreed the pathologist. ‘What’s left of it.’ Gideon, thought Sloan to himself: that’s who it was. He’d beaten the army of the Midianites with his hand-picked men, had Gideon."
The author plays fair with her clues, and by the end of "Last Respects" you should be able to deduce the identity of both the corpse and the murderer.
These Calleshire Chronicles have been labelled 'cozies' by some reviewers, but I find them a bit too edgy to easily fit into the 'cozy' category. Catherine Aird's humor has many hidden barbs. I'd classify her Inspector Sloan books as police procedurals, with interesting dollops of village life in not-so-cozy postwar England.
- Publisher: Doubleday (1 September 1982)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385182562
- ISBN-13: 978-0385182560
- Package Dimensions: 20.6 x 14.5 x 1.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 295 g
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