Wednesday, August 2, 2017

John Bude, The Cheltenham Square Murder

John Bude, The Cheltenham Square Murder
British Library Crime Classic, 2016 reprint of 1937 original
© 2016 Estate of John Bude
ISBN 978-1-4642-0669-6


John Bude is a pseudonym of Ernest Carpenter Elmore, who published 36 books (30 as Bude) between 1935 and 1957 (the year of his death).  Superintendent William Meredith appears in 23 of the books, including this one.

It’s a bizarre and obscure crime.  There’s a square on which 10 homes are located, mostly in the English style—abutting each other, but separate structures.  While things seem fairly serene on the surface, emotions seethe beneath, and the book opens with some hints at these underground issues. 

Captain Cotton, employed as a car salesman (and continuing to be referred to with the rank he held 20 years earlier in the Great War, has entered into an affair with one of the residents of the square (Isobel West, wife of Arthur West, who works in a local bank).  One evening, Cotton drops in on Edward Buller, a semi-retired stockbroker.  And, while seated in Buller’s second floor study, with only the back of his head visible above the back of the chair,h aving a drink and a talk about Cotton’s recent inheritance, Cotton is shot, through the open window.  By an arrow.  Loosed, as we shall discover by a 6’ long bow.  And several residents of the square are members of an archery club.

Meredith, who is in Cheltenham visiting a friend, is asked, unofficially, to assist the local police Inspector Long.

Their investigation takes a number of turns, some down blind alleys, before reaching a conclusion.  One thing, though, which seemed obvious to me, apparently does not occur to the police until quite late in the game.

I’d call this a workmanlike effort, but not a classic.  Meredith and Long rather quickly conclude that the murder must be one of the people living in the square, although it’s not clear why.  Cotton’s background remains murky for longer than (it seemed to me) it would have in a real investigation.  And, as I have already suggested, they miss a point that seems both obvious and important.  I’ve read three of four of Bude’s other books, and this one is not up to the others.  Solid, readable, but a little labored and plodding.  If you have not read anything by Bude before, I’d start with Death on the Riviera or The Lake District Murder (his first book).

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