If you are one of those people who have read Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers multiple times, and dearly wish there was more of crime fiction set in those times, the British Crime Classics like The Methods of Sergeant Cluff are for you. I have enjoyed many of these books since last year, and most of them have been reviewed her on this blog.
Author: Gil North
Series: British Library Crime Classics
Paperback: 158 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (September 6, 2016)
The story of The Methods of Sergeant Cluff is set in a small village called Gunnarshaw. As Seargrant Cluff himself says, Gunnarshaw is fifty years behind the times. The book begins with the body of a young woman being found. Everyone knows who the girl is. Cluff seems to be an eccentric character, at odds with his inspector but in the good books of the Superintendent. Barker is a rookie who tags along with Cluff.
The language of the narrative seems awkward at first. Later, you sort of get used to it. The dialogue is hard to follow. Many times, you wonder who said what. The pace is slow, and the characters speak in riddles, so you keep wondering what they are talking about. The girl hails from a poor family, and is found with a wad of cash, so everyone thinks she has a bad character. This may be true, but the seargrant is convinced it is not the cause of her death.
There are very few characters. The rich boss, the poor guy besotted with the girl, some coworkers – clues unfold at a slow pace. The end could easily have been foreseen by seasoned readers. Dark nights by the fire, oil lamps, meat pies and mushy peas, all add a fantastic picture of the era.
In a nutshell, I have mixed feelings. It is a good read on its own, not gory, and esoteric enough to have you turning pages. But if you compare it to other books from the era, it sort of pales in comparison. Nevertheless, I am glad to have the opportunity to read these books that have been out of print for so long.
Start reading the British Crime Classics – they will provide some welcome relief from all the contemporary literature out there.