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Parting Breath Paperback – 1 Mar 2012
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As ever with this entertaining series the book is well plotted and there are plenty of touches of humour as well as some marvellous characters; the irascible Superintendent Leeyes who always wants progress to have been made yesterday and who is full of half digested bits of knowledge from the various evening classes he has attended; DC Crosby who is the despair of the whole station but who actually does come up with some good ideas from time to time and Sloan who does his best not to let Crosby upset too many people and to keep Superintendent Leeyes happy.
This series does not need to be read in order and each book can be read as a standalone novel. I have read all the series more than once and they do bear re-reading. Some readers may find them too light and lacking in violence and gritty reality but you still find human nature in all its aspects - good as well as bad.
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The author steers into what had been Michael Innes and Edmund Crispin territory, in that "Parting Breath" takes place at a University bearing a strong resemblance to 'Oxbridge.' There is a full cast of eccentric professors and students, although we are three short by mystery's end. The action begins with a sit-down by a group of student-activists. Sloan and Crosby are brought on campus when a student's room is trashed, and as they are walking across campus after dark, Crosby spots what he thinks are two ghosts:
"Detective Inspector Sloan sighed. Far from being a young hopeful, Detective Constable Crosby was not even the brightest of the bright and it was house policy down at the Police Station to try to keep him on the less vital jobs. Then Sloan, too, caught sight of two figures dressed from head to foot in white flitting past the fluted columns of the opposite side of the quadrangle."
Then a student who was crossing almost the same patch of campus as the two policeman makes a more terrifying discovery: a young man stabbed through the heart, whose parting words to her are "twenty-six minutes."
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 (in this book, at least) of campus life in not-so-cozy postwar England.