I’m always happy to come across a British Library Crime Classics novel and am doubly so when they are large print. Lucky me, The Cheltenham Square Murder by John Bude from my local library was both.
The story began by introducing the residents of Regency Square in Cheltenham who consisted of a ‘mannish’ woman with yappy dogs, a pair of sticky-beak old maids, a young bank manager and his wife, a man on the brink of financial ruin whose wife was having an affair with another man who lived in the square, a doctor, a vicar and his sister, a shonky stockbroker, a crime writer, a car salesman and a snobby couple who took off for France when the publicity following the murder of one of their neighbours offended their sensibilities.
The murder was particularly newsworthy as the method was an arrow to the head of the victim as he sat with his back to a window in his own home.
When the police deduced that the arrow had been ‘loosed’ (that’s what they call it in archery, apparently) from a certain house in the Square I went back to the beginning to establish who lived where with the plan of cleverly deducing who the murderer might be. As most of the Square’s residents disliked the murdered man I started by suspecting everyone, but put several residents who were members of the local Archery Club at the top of my list.
Luckily, Superintendent Meredith was visiting the crime writer when the murder took place, so he stayed on to assist the investigation. The local police officers were very glad to have Meredith’s ‘first-class brains’ available to them although he was a fairly dull character. The local bloke, Inspector Long was funnier although his dialect wore thin eventually.
I had the murderer in my sights from the beginning of the story, although I didn’t know how or why they managed the murder until the end of the story when all was revealed.
All of the characters were stereo-typed caricatures although I did feel as if the female characters were particularly hard-done by. Miss Boon was made fun of for being a strong character, while the two old maids were made fun of for ‘fluttering’ when they were interviewed by the police. The young, bank-manager’s wife was considered ridiculous for being too in love with her husband and the woman who was having the affair was obviously no-good. Even worse, the vicar’s sister was virtually non-existent.
Eventually Superintendent Meredith and Inspector Long eventually worked out who the murderer was without my help, which was a bit of a miracle because ‘first-class brains’ or not, I was beginning to despair of them ever seeing what I had. Despite their ineptitude and the condescension shown to all of the female characters, I enjoyed the story’s setting very much and think that living in a fictitious Square in Cheltenham would be lovely.