It's always both useful and enjoyable to remind myself (and my readers) that there are still some first-rate authors turning out traditional mysteries. Take Catherine Aird, whose first book appeared in 1966 and whose most recent appeared about a year ago. Her books, set in the fictional English county of Calleshire, feature a police inspector, C. D. Sloane, his hapless assistant, Detective Constable Crosby and his appalling boss, Superintendent Leeyes. They are well-written, funny traditional mysteries, with more than a touch of the police procedural thrown in.
The arrival of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey knocked out my electric power for 9 days - and, yes, I was very lucky to have only that as my worst problem; there no significant damage to self, spouse, house or vehicles. It did, however, intrude on my reading. My town's public library, fortunately, stepped in and opened its doors to those of us needing warmth, connectivity - and, of course, books. So I checked out the available mysteries and found, to my pleasure, a Catherine Aird novel I hadn't read, "A Going Concern." That's why it is the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
"A Going Concern" begins, as many mysteries do, with an unusual will and some rather peculiar deathbed instructions left by an elderly woman, Octavia Garamond. She chooses a great-niece, Amelia Kennerly, as the executrix of that will, although she has only seen Amelia once in her life. Amelia finds herself struggling to follow her great-aunt's instructions, which include a directive to make certain the police are present at her funeral.
That directive winds up on the desk of Inspector Sloane, who is inclined to dismiss it. He becomes more interested, however, when Octavia Garamond's house is entered and ransacked shortly after her death. He also discovers that the old woman took the trouble to order her doctor to be certain to perform a thorough examination of her body after her death.
Quite clearly, the old woman was afraid of something, a fear which proves to have been very much justified. It all may be centered around her relationship with a chemical company and some mysterious experiments undertaken during World War II.
It's a fascinating story, made even livelier by Aird's marvelous sense of humor. There are plenty of clues, as there should be in a traditional mystery, but there is also a fair amount of police procedure involved, interviewing possible witnesses and suspects and awaiting the results of various scientific tests.
"A Going Concern" was written in 1993 and, I fear, is now out of print, although the link above will take you to some sellers through Amazon who appear to have copies; your favorite used mystery book store most likely can find it for you as well. If you check the backlist page on this blog, you'll find reviews of some of her other, earlier, books as well. Catherine Aird deserves a wider audience in the United States.