Friday, May 4, 2018

A Mid-Century Matrimonial Agency in Flaxborough

The Flaxborough Chronicles # 4
Colin Watson
Farrago Books
April 5, 2018

It suddenly occurs to Flaxborough butcher, Arthur Spain, that he hasn't seen his recently widowed sister-in-law, Lillian Bannister, in a while. Upon visiting her residence, he is even more alarmed. Everything seems as usual until he goes around the back and finds ranks of milk bottles that have been delivered, but never retrieved. Inspector Purbright is also alarmed because a spinster of the town, Miss Martha Reckitt, has disappeared under much similar circumstances.

Inspector Purbright and his trusty Sargeant Love spring into action. I say "spring" but really, in Flaxborough, things proceed at a much more leisurely pace. As they search through the backgrounds of the missing ladies, they discover that both had contracted with a matrimonial agency, Handclasp House. Both ladies had also dropped hints of significant changes in their lives. At the same time Miss Lucilla Edith Cavell Teatime, is en route to Flaxborough. She is a very different lady though, fashionable, sophisticated, and self-possessed. She also registers with the agency, but why?

I have really enjoyed reading The Flaxborough Chronicles, and Lonelyheart 4122  is my favorite so far. Colin Watson had a very witty and somewhat wicked sense of humor that shines in these mysteries set in late 50's, early 60's England. He always stumps me with a word or two, such as "flocculent" to describe the bottles at the back door. There are always plays on words and descriptions that tickle me. Purbright, upon peering into a keyhole and seeing an eye, then gaining admission, describes it, "He looked at their owner's face and saw his old friend the eye, now revealed to have an associate." Social commentary is an essential component in these highly readable shortish novels.

Thanks to Farrago and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING-4 Stars

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