A man is shot but the murderer is out of sight

The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude was written in the 1930s like a number of the crime novels I have read recently. There seems to have been a resurgence of interest in the less well known crime writers of the Golden Age, especially with the reissue of many of the titles by the British Library in their lovely paperback editions.

The plot of this story hinges around a murder which involves a shot from outside the house during a terrible storm. A man is dead but no one saw the shooter. As the story progresses we realise that lots of people had a motive for the murder as the victim was not a pleasant man. An inspector is called in to investigate and he sees this as a chance to make his mark in his career but he is still prepared to let the local vicar act as an amateur detective together with his friend the doctor and to allow them access to interviews, clues and the crime scene in a way which I suspect was unprofessional even at the time. The author portrays the vicar as a kindly man who has enjoyed reading crime novels but who finds the real thing a lot more brutal than he expected.

The story is set in a small community on the Cornish coast and the vicar’s knowledge of the individuals who live locally is vital to the storyline. Because of the time in which the book was set the class divisions between local fishermen, the house servants, the professional people of the area and the richer inhabitants is clearly shown and obviously taken for granted by the author. For all that, however, this is a book with real compassion for the majority of the characters and the author takes time to make them real people rather than stereotypes.

The solution to the murder rather depends, in my opinion, on knowledge which is not available to the reader until they are told it very late in the story so it’s best just to enjoy the writing and the way in which the author gently pokes fun at the main characters as you read.

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