Coffin Scarcely Used by Colin Watson
In the respectable seaside town of Flaxborough, the equally respectable councillor Harold Carobleat is laid to rest. Cause of death: pneumonia.
But he is scarcely cold in his coffin before Detective Inspector Purbright, affable and annoyingly polite, must turn out again to examine the death of Carobleat’s neighbour, Marcus Gwill, former prop. of the local rag, the Citizen. This time it looks like foul play, unless a surfeit of marshmallows had led the late and rather unlamented Mr Gwill to commit suicide by electrocution. (‘Power without responsibility’, murmurs Purbright.)
How were the dead men connected, both to each other and to a small but select band of other town worthies? Purbright becomes intrigued by a stream of advertisements Gwill was putting in the Citizen, for some very oddly named antique items…
About Colin Watson
in Croydon, Surrey, The United Kingdom
February 01, 1920
January 17, 1983
Mystery & Thrillers, Humour
Colin Watson was educated at the Whitgift School in South Croydon, London. During his career as a journalist he worked in London and Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he was a leader-writer for Kemsley Newspapers. His book Hopjoy Was Here (1962) received the Silver Dagger Award. He was married, with three children, and lived in Lincolnshire. After retiring from journalism he designed silver jewellery. As well as a series of humorous detective novels set in the imaginary town of Flaxborough, featuring Inspector Purbright, Watson also wrote and later revised a study of detective stories and thrillers called Snobbery with Violence.
This was a real breath of fresh air and took me back to the days of Agatha Christie where jolly decent folks in an idyllic English village setting had their quietude and passivity of their rustic provincial lives disrupted by one murder after another. Nasty business, but there is no reason why all of this can't be tidied up in a polite civilised manner. In comparison with no holds barred harsh brutal reality that crime fiction has evolved into today, (and there is nothing wrong with that) it redresses the balance to go back to the golden age of whodunnit and murder mystery. There is a strong market for this type of fiction evidenced by television with Midsomer Murders and Death in Paradise. Originally published in 1958, the story is set in the fictitious coastal town of Flaxborough where six months after the death of a town councillor his next door neighbour was found electrocuted and his mouth stuffed with marshmallows! I took my time savouring this one, loved the humour, and was unable to predict the ending, which took me completely by surprise.