I always wind up feeling a bit sorry for C. D. Sloan, the clever Detective Inspector created by British author Catherine Aird. Sloan has a difficult boss, Superintendent Leeyes, who is remarkably little help to him in solving crimes. Sloan is generally saddled with an underling, Detective Constable Crosby, who is even less help (he is known around the station as the "defective constable"). And yet Sloan continues to come up with correct solutions for even the most difficult of cases.
Take his appearance in "A Late Phoenix," which Aird wrote in 1970. It was the fourth novel to feature Sloan and the other members of the Berebury C. I. D. A murder comes to light which evidently took place in a local house when the town was bombed by the Germans during June, 1941. It has taken nearly thirty years for the local government to get its act together and tear down the remains of the houses leveled in the bombing - and, when they do tear it down, they find the skeleton of a woman. There is a bullet lodged in the skeleton, so it quite clearly was a case of murder. But nobody was ever reported missingaround the time of the bombing, and no crime was even suspected until the skeleton was unearthed.
"A Late Phoenix" is the subject of this week's review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here. As always, Sloan is a delight, examining the scanty evidence, looking for a lead, any lead, that can turn this unbelievably cold case into a meaningful investigation. How he does it - and the consequences of the discovery and investigation - make a fascinating novel in the series of Inspector Sloan mysteries. The story is told with the kind of tongue-in-cheek wit that readers have come to expect from Catherine Aird over the years. Fortunately, she is still writing mysteries, and I think she deserves a wider audience in the United States than she has today.