Colin Watson is new to me and likely to many other mystery lovers. His Coffin, Scarcely Used was published before I was born but that didn’t make it any less appealing. The mystery begins with the death of a local shipping broker named Harold Carobleat whose business shut down with his death. He was suspected of some shady dealings. Within months, many of the people who attended his funeral also died. The first to go was his next-door neighbor, local newspaper publisher Mr. Gwill, in a case that folks would rather think was an accident, but that does not stand up and certainly, there was no doubt when a fellow was stabbed right on the street. Inspector Purbright leads the investigation with procedural integrity and wit.
I enjoyed Coffin, Scarcely Used quite a bit. It’s from that school of mystery fiction where the puzzle is all. We don’t have any backstory on the detective and his colleagues though they demonstrate distinct personalities as the story continues. We don’t know whodunnit, though the mystery is fair. Frankly, the title is the biggest clue. There was a moment of doubt when the police were reading the ads and it seemed they were missing a very obvious clue and I was nearly shouting, “Come on, you guys, you can’t be that obtuse!” But perhaps Inspect Purbright was simply keeping his cards close to his chest since he did figure it out.
There’s a lot of humor, including one last bit at the end that made me laugh out loud. This is a classic mystery where the characters are lightly drawn, though I assume they will take on more substance as the series continues. They are not the point, them mystery is the point, so it’s all about getting to the solution through questioning witness and collecting clues. What more could I ask for?
I received an e-galley of Coffin, Scarcely Used from the publisher through NetGalley