Charity Ends At Home, Colin Watson
There could be an argument made to the effect that I've currently got too many series revisits going on - what with this, the Flaxborough Chronicles, my rerun right through the Discworld novels, a restart of the Smiley series by Le Carre, and whatever else I've started and forgotten about in recent months. I've never forgotten this Flaxborough Series though - it's always been my kickstart reading again go to series, and this time around it started as that, and has continued as just a sheer pleasure to re-read even after however many dozens of times I've read them already.
CHARITY ENDS AT HOME sees the ongoing involvement of Miss Lucilla Teatime, and the unwitting assistance of Mortimer Hive, accomplished ladies' man and indifferent private investigator in Detective Inspector Purbright's investigation of the death of tireless charity worker, Mrs Henriette Palgrove, found upended in her garden pond, after a round of letters from the victim advising that she is likely to be murdered were received by eminent citizens of Flaxborough including the Chief Constable himself.
Told, as always, in Watson's inimitable cheeky, tongue in cheek style, with all the political incorrectness you'd expect of something published in the 1960's, these novels are always rescued by the sense of humour which is wicked, witty and oh so very British. Of course they are dated, and they are often mildly cringe-inducing, but Miss Teatime, in particular, is a magnificent character, entertaining, cunning, resourceful and blissfully independent she's part heroine, part crook in a way that unapologetically glorious. Purbright is calm, considered, and not above a bit of sly tongue in cheekness himself, and everyone in the cast in these novels gets their fair share of eccentricity, vulnerability, and laugh out loud moments.
Everytime I return to this series I'm reminded again how much I do love it. CHARITY ENDS AT HOME has a nicely twisty plot to it, as well as the highly entertaining cast of character and laugh-out-loud wordplay referred to in the book's blurb. (As an aside, this is one of those series that really does work best if you start at the beginning. Knowing who everyone is and how they are all introduced really does help a lot.)
“I am in great danger … I know that murder is going to be the reward for my uncomplaining loyalty.”
This letter containing heartfelt and urgent pleas for help is received by three very eminent citizens of Flaxborough, including the Chief Constable himself. So when one of the town’s most tireless charity workers, Mrs Henrietta Palgrove, is found the wrong way up in her garden pond, a connection seems likely.
Yet Detective Inspector Purbright finds the case does not quite add up and it takes the acute wits of his old friend, the ever-charming Miss Lucilla Teatime, as well as the more unwitting help of Mortimer Hive, indifferent private investigator and accomplished ladies’ man, to tease out the real murderer.
Witty and a little wicked, Colin Watson’s tales offer a mordantly entertaining cast of characters and laugh-out-loud wordplay.