The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude

Well, thanks to my lovely local library, I have reached the 5th and final British Library Crime Classic volume they ordered in at my suggestion – “The Cornish Coast Murder” by John Bude. This was the first of his murder mysteries (I reviewed “The Lake District Murder” here) and in many ways I think it might be the best of the batch I’ve read.


The book is set in the quiet Cornish village of Boscawen. Here lives the Reverend Dodd, who likes nothing more than spending a happy evening in front of his fire reading a murder mystery, then discussing it over a meal with his friend. the local doctor Pendrill. However, one stormy night his neighbour, Julius Tregarthen, is found shot. The latter is a grumpy and unpopular local landlord and Magistrate, living alone with his niece Ruth. But who could have wanted him dead? There are only a few suspects – Ruth herself; Ronald Hardy, a shell-shocked author living locally who is keen on Ruth (and vice versa!); and a local poacher seen arguing with Julius earlier on the day of the murder. Unfortunately the local police are stumped, despite coming up with several theories – and Hardy has done a runner, which confuses the issue completely.

Fortunately, the Rev Dodd has imbibed much criminal expertise from his reading of crime novels, and is happy to put this into practice, joining the local Inspector in his investigations. He has the advantage of local knowledge, of course, being the Vicar and party to everyone’s problems and comings and goings. So while the hapless Inspector Bigswell runs around trying to find clues, evidence and checking out hypotheses, Dodd sits in his chair and comes up with an intuitive solution.

This was *such* a lovely read – full of atmosphere and humour, but plenty of drama as well. Bude’s other novel was very much a police procedural, but this one had much more to it. Dodd made an appealing detective, and his sparring with Pendrill and Bigswell was lovely. The plot was beautifully twisty and turny and I didn’t guess the end, which is always a delight nowadays. The scene where Dodd and Pendrill discuss the latest novels they’re going to read, name-dropping such notables as Sayers, Freeman Wills Croft and “my old friend, my very dear old friend, Mrs. Agatha Christie. New adventures of that illimitable chap Poirot, I hope” was a hoot and signposted the whole tenor of the novel – because the ‘little grey cells’ are very much how Dodd solves the mystery. The denouement was much more effective in this novel too – some of the others I’ve read have been slightly anticlimactic.

I’ve had a ball reading the British Library Crime Classics, and I hope they keep reissue these lost authors – on the evidence of those I’ve read so far, they certainly don’t deserve to be forgotten!