FFB: Last Respects

This is the 64th in my series of forgotten books

Last Respects by Catherine Aird, © 1982, Bantam Books 1984 mass market paperback, British rural mystery – Detective Inspector C.D. Slone

This mystery by one of the British old hands at crime fiction  may have been published in 1982 but it reads like it was written a decade or two – or more – earlier. Aird, the author of more than twenty crime fiction novels and several collections of short stories, sticks to classic lines in her mysteries, and that is both the beauty,  and sometimes, the weakness of them. Her books are witty, literate, and straddle the “cozy” and “police procedural” genres.

Aird is best known for her successful Chronicles of Calleshire, a series of crime novels set in the fictional County of Calleshire, England, and featuring Detective Chief Inspector C.D. Sloan of the Berebury CID Department, and his assistant, Detective Constable Crosby. This book is the tenth in a series that doesn’t demand to be read in order.

A body is found floating in the river estuary, apparently it has been in the water for some time. Difficult to identify, there seem no leads to who the man is, though the cause of death is plain: a broken neck. So the person was killed – must have been, the body had to have been moved into the middle of the river – not drowned. Murder brings Detective Inspector C.D. Sloan and Detective Constable Crosby to the case.

Plenty of attention to sense of place here, and the characters, or at least those that are important to the story, are pretty well drawn. I’d have liked a map, but I suppose that’s a minor quibble. Those who like to solve the puzzle for themselves, preceding the protagonist to the solution, won’t have much difficulty here, but in this Aird mystery, it’s not the solving so much as the telling. Readers who enjoy this type of mystery will likely enjoy this one, and though it’s not one of the strongest in the series it’s a promising choice for reading on a summer afternoon with a cool drink at hand.

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links to all of the Forgotten Book posts can be found on Patti Abbott’s blog, Pattinase

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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12 Responses to FFB: Last Respects

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    It’s been a long time since I’ve read an Aird novel – 1975! – but I’ve read two collections of her short stories (INJURY TIME and CHAPTER AND HEARSE) within the last ten years. Some of the stories in the books do feature Sloan, a man I tend to think of as “long suffering” with the moronic Crosby as an assistant/sidekick.

  2. Steve Lewis says:

    Although I’m sure that I own all of Aird’s books that came out in paperback, I’m way behind on reading them. I’ve read only one or two, in other words, but that’s enough to agree with you, Richard, that her fiction was a easy-going blend of the cozy with the police procedural, in the same category as Ngaio Marsh, I’d say, if I had to come up with an author who’s similar.

  3. J F Norris says:

    Aird is one of the many writers revived by Rue Morgue Press and she is not so forgotten anymore. A good thing I think. I’ve never read any of her books. But that atmospheric cover so reminiscent of an illustration from a Victorian novel certainly is enticing. I’ve been seeing a lot of Aird reviews on the numerous blogs I read regularly. Nothing really grabs me though.

  4. Richard says:

    Jeff – maybe it’s time to try another one, or re-read a favorite. I didn’t think Crosby was as buffoonish in this one as I’d remembered from others.

    Steve – I think Ngaio Marsh is a pretty good comparison, though perhaps Marsh fans would disagree. I’ve not read any of the short story collections of her work, but probably should do so.

  5. Richard says:

    J.F. – Yes, Rue Morgue did reprint some of them, though I don’t think they did the entire corpus. As you can see, this is the older Bantam edition. I still have read only a fraction of her books, and of those I have, which is not a complete run, though it’s sufficient.

  6. Yvette says:

    I’ve seen and heard of Aird over the years but for whatever reason I don’t think I’ve ever read any of her work. I’m wondering if my local library has any, hmmm……

    I think I may even have one of her books on my shelves somewhere. Around here, things have a habit of turning up unexpectedly.

    I uually like this sort of book in general. Summer days and cold winter nights reading, sounds like.

  7. Todd Mason says:

    I’ve come across Aird’s name, but I don’t believe I’ve ever read any of her work. Good that she was still able to place novels with a non-specialist house in the ’80s…I have the impression that Mysterious Press was a savior for many cozy/procedural works, as well as more hardboiled, by that decade’s end, at least.

  8. Richard says:

    Yvette – I hope you can find the Aird you’ve got there, these may be too long gone for the library, but I haven’t checked.

    Todd
    – this falls in the cozy category, except it’s a police procedural. I knew who did it halfway through, maybe sooner, in spite of the author’s red herrings. That’s okay, I still enjoyed it.

  9. Patti Abbott says:

    I read her books in the seventies and always enjoyed them. Thanks for remembering her.

  10. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I just checked and the Brooklyn Public Library has copies of 17 different titles. I’m guessing she is still fairly available in most library systems.

    The one I always associate her with – perhaps because they were writing at the same time – is Elizabeth Lemarchand. June Thomson is another, as is Dorothy Simpson (I’ve never read Thomson).

    But maybe they aren’t similar at all.

  11. Richard says:

    Patti – My pleasure, I enjoyed reading and sharing it.

    Jeff – thanks for checking that, I’m a little surprised she is still that available. I think it’s great!

  12. Pingback: Last respects | Estellasenvy

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