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A Tremendous Starter for a Charismatic Lead
on 27 July 2013
This is really a delightful read. It is in the mode of old-fashioned or traditional detective work. The concept is fun and reminiscent of obsessionals who want to visit every racecourse or pub in Britain. On this occasion, set in the 1930's, one of the main protagonists, Stephen Sefton enters Cambridge via Merchants Taylor school, leaving with a third class degree, referred to as a 'poet's degree'. Not surprisingly he earned this through self-indulgence and lack of study to find himself as a lowly schoolmaster in minor public schools. Ill-prepared for the real world he embarks on a crusade. Firstly he joins the communist party and then drives himself into the Spanish Civil War where he encounters 'death everywhere', even shooting 'poor souls' himself.
Wounded he returns looking for employment. He is taken on by Professor Morley , a writer of some renown , whose aim is to visit every county in England, writing a guide to their attractions. The amiable Swanton Morley and his head-on daughter, the equally opinionated, rebellious Miriam is problematic. Unfortunately the fascination of his task is blighted as when his adventure begins there is a murder. In Norfolk, for starters, a vicar is found hanged in his vestry. Although it seems like suicide, Morley has doubts that delay him in his project of a county and country guide.
Inevitably he is drawn into a detective mode of dealing with the facts, aided by Sefton, into the evidence, the motives that may lead to the killer. This is the stuff of whodunit literature without the sensationalism. A joy to read amongst the aggressive crime thrillers. This is not without suspense nor wit but suggests Ian Sansom is on to a winner with his reluctant hero Swanton. Excellent, charming, amusing and different. Another 38 counties to go? I Hope Morley and the author have enough time. Great stuff!