Mrs. Bobbin's fury might be easily explained. The 71-year-old Mrs. Bobbin had just lost her older sister, Millicent, to violence - apparently murdered in the course of a robbery. Mrs. Bobbin thought that explanation was nonsense; her sister, she believed, was murdered in the course of a vicious fight with another angry old woman, Grazia Vaillant, over the rituals that should be observed in the local Church of England. Millicent Griggs was staunchly Low Church and Miss Vaillant was just as strongly High Church, and the vicar, Mr. Waddell, did not always find it easy to keep the peace between the two. Both had well-deserved reputations for both anger and nastiness. In fact, that anger is at the heart of the mystery presented in Furious Old Women, a 1960 mystery and biting satire by Leo Bruce. It's the topic of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
There are, in fact, a surprising number of nasty and furious - sometimes comically so - old women living in the village of Gladhurst, along with a variety of English village "types." It is the death of Mrs. Bobbin’s older sister Millicent Griggs, that brings matters to a head. Her body is found in a new and open grave that had been dug for a Mr. Chilling, a shopkeeper in the village. She has, apparently, been hit on the head and the body appears to have been robbed of both money and jewelry. Mrs. Bobbin having little faith in the local police – a lack of faith which seems, over the course of the book, to be quite justifiable – she asks independent amateur sleuth Carolus Deene to lend a hand.
The more we see of the people in the village, the more evident it becomes that the original explanation of the death is wrong (even if the police don’t want to acknowledge the fact). The reader will follow along with Carolus Deene as he investigates the death – and the other complications which soon evolve – and will quite probably be as surprised as I was by the twists and turns along the way.
Furious Old Women, by Leo Bruce, is worth finding and reading. One warning, however: the book is available both as a paperback and as an e-book. If you have an e-reader, go for the e-book – the paperback edition is not at all well bound, and the book is likely to crack and fall apart as you try to open the pages enough to read. It’s a problem, obviously, that doesn’t extend to the e-book, so I’d recommend you read it in that format.
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Rich Westwood, who blogs at the Past Offences blog, has been collecting reviews this month of books published in 1960. As Furious Old Women was published in that year, I'm submitting the review to Past Offences as well. You might check out the 1960 sign-up page for a lot of additional mysteries published that year!