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BOOK REVIEW: THE SUSSEX DOWNS MURDER by JOHN BUDE

Posted on: April 29, 2015

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They say you should never judge a book by it’s cover, but what the hell, the British Library Crime Classic re-issues are very elegant little numbers, and I probably wouldn’t have bought this book if I hadn’t seen a whole display of them in Waterstone’s, looking very enticing and collectible.

These are re-issues of little-known whodunnits from the Golden Age of crime fiction between the wars. This isn’t the usual suspects – Christie, Sayers, Allingham – but instead authors who have (generally) long since slipped off the radar. In ‘The Sussex Downs Murder‘ John Bude gives us a wonderfully unpretentious mystery set around a curious menage-a-trois at a farm in the Sussex countryside. One hot July evening one of the brothers drives off in his car and is never seen again. Inspector Meredith is assigned to the case, and solves it through sheer dogged police-work.

What I found refreshing about this story is that it is a good puzzle. I had my suspicions about one character early on, but the story still evolved in a different way than I was expecting (clearly I’m not as bright as one Amazon reviewer who claimed they solved it in the first few pages). Refreshingly, the detective is just a plain-and-simple police officer doing his job, and not some smart-arse aristocrat who (naturally) knows better than old thicko Plod. Also he doesn’t have a haunted past, or a drink problem, or an unhappy marriage … etc etc. Likewise all the rest of the characters are fairly ordinary people – apart from the odd crime novelist or eccentric academic anyway. Although I have to say the only real dated humdinger in the book is that he has all the working-class characters talking like something out of Benny Hill, there’s too much “oo ‘ee were a strange ‘un” type of thing.

I enjoyed it anyway, and am looking forward to the two others by Mr Bude that have been released, set in the Lake District and Cornwall respectively.

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