PLASTER SINNERS - Colin Watson
Wandering around in Wormhole Books in Belgrave South last Saturday, you have no idea how pleased I was to find a copy of Plaster Sinners by Colin Watson. This is the last of his 13 Flaxborough novels that I've been looking for for such a long time.
Colin Watson is one of the great under-appreciated and discussed British Writers as far as I'm concerned. His Flaxborough Series, written between the late 1950's and 1980 (he died in 1982) are a magnificent example of the slightly cheeky, irreverant but never scorning, school of the ever so slightly absurd Crime Fiction.
The entire set is:
Coffin, Scarcely Used (1958)
Bump in the Night (1960)
Hopjoy Was Here (1962)
Lonelyheart 4122 (1967)
Charity Ends at Home (1968)
Flaxborough Chronicle (1969)
The Flaxborough Crab aka Just What the Doctor Ordered (1969)
Broomsticks Over Flaxborough aka Kissing Covens (1972)
The Naked Nuns aka Six Nuns and a Shotgun (1975)
One Man's Meat aka It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog (1975)
Blue Murder (1979)
Plaster Sinners (1980)
Whatever's Been Going on at Mumblesby? (1982)
All of them are fantastic, witty, slightly silly, but ultimately sound mysteries with a strong plot and engaging characters.
Plaster Sinners is the tale of poor Detective Sargeant Sidney Love, an amiable sort of a policeman, and the mystery of why, when all he was doing was attending the local antique auction, somebody should take it upon themselves to hit him over the head with a doorknob. At the time he was simply appraising Lot Thirty-Four - comprising two golf balls, an LMS railway tumbler, an old meat mincer, two decanter stoppers, a soap dish and a moulded relief of a cottage entitled "At the End of Life's Lane". Enquiring minds, in the shape of Inspector Purbright, are also somewhat exercised when the same lot is keenly pursued at the auction by the local Gentry, a solicitor and a stranger who promptly take the bidding to the princely sum of 400 pounds.
For a marvellous essay on Colin Watson's books have a look at: http://lifeloom.com/I4EwenerWatsonR.htm(link is external)
And if you've never read any of his wonderful novels, well, rectify that as soon as you possibly can.
Detective Sergeant Love would be the last to admit having an informed opinion about "valuable antiques", yet it is his critical appraisal of Lot 34 that earns him a nasty bang on the head and the lead into a genteel but chilling murder mystery.