A Dead Liberty Hardcover – 1 Jan 1987
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Sloan and Crosby are given the task of reviewing what seems like an open and shut case because the original investigating officer is ill. Sloan is not convinced that Lucy is guilty but he cannot at first see who else could possibly have had means motive and opportunity.
Obscure African countries, civil engineering projects and a thoroughly ingenious method of murder makes this an interesting and entertaining read. This is one of Catherine Aird's excellent Sloan and Crosby series which I don't believe I'd read before. It is, in my opinion, one of the best in this excellent series and I defy anyone to work out who did it and why.
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The procedurals are set in the fictional County of Calleshire, England which very much resembles the County of Kent where Catherine Aird (the pseudonym of novelist Kinn Hamilton McIntosh) lives.
Who stood to gain from the poisoning death of Kenneth Carline, a young civil engineer? Lucy Durmast, arraigned on the charge of his murder, fed him chili con carne for lunch shortly before he died, and she refuses to speak at all--not to the police, nor to lawyers, nor to friends, nor to the court. Her father is the head of the civil engineering firm that employed the deceased, but he is in Africa, working on a new project.
Sloan and 'Defective Constable' Crosby must take over the murder case almost a year after Kenneth Carline died from a dose of hyoscine hydrobromide, but their chief suspect won't talk to them. Kenneth Carline had been about to attend the opening ceremony for a new tunnel under the River Calle when he died, so Sloan and Crosby scrutinize the protesters who disrupted it. Then Lucy receives a death curse in the mail, and the investigation turns toward Africa.
These Calleshire Chronicles have been labelled 'cozies' by some reviewers, but I find them a bit too edgy to easily fit into the 'cozy' category. Catherine Aird's humor has many hidden barbs. I'd classify her Inspector Sloan books as police procedurals, with interesting dollops of village life in not-so-cozy postwar England.