HIS BURIAL TOO (1973) by Catherine Aird

Aird_HIS-BURIAL-TOO_collinsThis locked room mystery comes at the suggestion of JJ, author-in-chief of The Invisible Event, for which many thanks (I think). Its central conundrum is certainly an absolute doozy: how can a murderer flee a room in which the only exit is blocked by an immovable piece of stonemasonry? Told in a light, breezy style, this is a cosy mystery that refuses to take itself seriously and which would make a great episode of the Midsomer Murders TV series. We begin on a hot July day …

I submit this review for Bev’s 2016 Silver Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt; and Patti Abbott’s Friday’s Forgotten Books meme over at her fab Pattinase blog.

“If, Crosby,” said Sloan letting out a long sigh, “you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning, that’s all.”

Set in the fictional county of Calleshire, the case involves the disappearance of the recently widowed Richard Mallory Tindall, and with him a top secret report from his R&D company. When a body is found inside a church tower, crushed by a huge statue known as the ‘Fitton Bequest’ that is blocking the only exit, the question is: who knocked out the man before topping the statue on to him and how did they escape from the sealed room? And why kill the man in such an elaborate fashion? And who stood to gain – his daughter, Fenella? Her Italian boyfriend, Giuseppe? What about the report for United Mellemetics that has gone missing? And what about the man who wanted to buy Tindall’s company? And for whom did the dead man buy an expensive pair of jade and diamond clips? And then there is a second murder …

The Superintendent groaned irritably. “Not another of those locked room mysteries, Sloan, I hope. I can’t stand them either.”

The case is investigated by Detective Inspector Christopher Dennis Sloan, Aird’s long-running protagonist who manages to solve crimes despite the annoying interventions of his boss, Superintendent Leeyes, and Crosby, his very dim constable. The basic puzzle is pretty good but the novel is relentlessly padded out with one red herring after another, with most of the subsidiary plotlines proving to have nothing at all to do with the central mystery. It is just as well then that the dialogue is often amusing and the elaborate solution also proves satisfying, though it is built on an incredibly risky plan that could have failed incredibly easily. Good fun and jolly overall, but at 200 pages, really little more than a padded out novella.

Like a sticky snail, the Superintendent strewed a trail of imperfectly assimilated concepts behind him: not only did they show where he had been but they were a nuisance to the unwary.

The Chronicles of Calleshire featuring Inspector Sloan

  1. The Religious Body (1966)
  2. Henrietta Who (1968)
  3. The Complete Steel (1969) [aka The Stately Home Murder]
  4. A Late Phoenix (1970)
  5. aird_burial_2His Burial Too (1973)
  6. Slight Mourning (1975)
  7. Parting Breath (1977)
  8. Some Die Eloquent (1979)
  9. Passing Strange (1980)
  10. Last Respects (1982)
  11. Harm’s Way (1984)
  12. A Dead Liberty (1986)
  13. The Body Politic (1990)
  14. A Going Concern (1993)
  15. Injury Time (1994)
  16. After Effects (1996)
  17. Stiff News (1998)
  18. Little Knell (2001)
  19. Amendment of Life (2003)
  20. Chapter and Hearse (2004)
  21. A Hole in One (2005)
  22. Losing Ground (2007)
  23. Past Tense (2010)
  24. Dead Heading (2014)

For more information about Aird and her books, visit: www.catherineaird.com

I submit this review for Bev’s 2016 Silver Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt in the ‘bird’ category:

012_vintage_silver_scavenger_2016

 

***** (2.5 fedora tips out of 5)

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This entry was posted in 2016 Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt, Catherine Aird, England, Locked Room Mystery. Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to HIS BURIAL TOO (1973) by Catherine Aird

  1. Interesting about the padding in this one, Sergio. I wonder if AIrd was under pressure to make the story a certain length? At any rate, I agree with you that this is a fun series, and I actually like Sloan’s character. Thanks for reminding me…

  2. Colin says:

    Padding or not, I think I might like this one. An impossible crime always gets my attention!

  3. tracybham says:

    This is the next one in the series for me to read. I have enjoyed the previous four, so I sure I will like this one.

  4. TomCat says:

    This one has always hovered near the top of my TBR-pile, but my previous disappointment over The Stately Home Murder and mostly lukewarm reviews always made me pick something else. And your 2.5 out 5 rating is not exactly a tie-breaker either. Well, I guess I’l eventually take a crack at in my never-ending quest to absorb every known locked room mystery in the known universe.

    Anyway, thanks for the review, Sergio!

    • Thanks TC – I reckon the puzzle element will make you smile. I have more than a slight aversion to a surfeit of superfluous red herrings, but others think it is just part of the game, so …

  5. mikeripley says:

    Try “Past Tense” which features “the late professor of archaeology Michael Ripley”…

  6. I’ve only read one of Aird’s novels, which I liked very much. Unfortunately, I haven’t come across many of her books in my travels, as I *would* like to read more of her – maybe not this one, though….

    • Well, I’m sending this one off to my niece in Australia, who is just getting into mysteries (she loved Carr’s THE CROOKED HIMNGE and FALSE SCENT by Ngaio Marsh, so she’s batting 50.50 right now …). I reckon she’ll love it.

  7. JJ says:

    I ike the locked room aspect of this, but the part that really stayed with me is the way the medical examiner deduces so much about the (then-unknown) victim in the room with only their hand visible…that is an absolutely awesome piece of scientific deduction, and it’s a shame there’s not more that in here. I’m glad that you at least didn’t complete hate this!

    The follow-up, Slight Mourning, has a very clever strucutre that reall shouldn’t work but really does. Plot-wise it’s not the best, but it again throws in enough of interest to make me believe I’ll return to Aird before too long.

  8. Sergio – Thanks for the tip. It may not be evident from my blog, but I do enjoy light, even humorous mysteries. And thanks for mentioning MIDSOMER MURDERS. The show has been on for years, but I am just catching up with it now. Luckily, my public library has quite a few episodes on DVD.

    • Thanks Elgin. It may seem that I was a bit hard on this, but this is good entertainment (I should add that I am not the biggest fan of MS [the rest of the family loves it though] – I would rate it along the dame lines as this book, i.e. half marks)

  9. John says:

    I enjoyed this book, but then I’m a literary egghead and liked all the plot complexities as well as her witty writing. The impossible crime business was very well done. Well worth it for fans of that subgenre. I liked it enough to seek out any Aird book I might stumble across in my book browsing. Now I have a nice little pile thanks to the treasure trove of vintage mysteries that turned up at the Hyde Park book sale earlier in the fall over here in Chicago. I’m looking forward to reading them all from HENRIETTA WHO? to SOME DIE ELOQUENT and all the others in between I managed to snag for a pittance.

  10. I think I might have tried to read an Aird book once upon a time, Sergio – but for whatever reason I don’t think I ever finished it. Can’t remember which one it was. But I do know that Aird has been enthusiastically recommended by several bloggers over the years and I’m determined to give her another try. But maybe not this one?

    • Actually, I think you would like it a lot. I do really enjoy Golden Age mysteries, I really do, and I like books with a sense of humour – but I have a thing about too many red herrings, and I think maybe that won’t bother most readers as much as it does me. Good to hear from you Yvette – it won’t be pretty for a while, but eventually we’ll all get our fight back, you’ll see. 🙂

      • Sad days on this side of the Atlantic, m’dear. Sad days.

        I’ll take a look at the book then, Sergio. Just on your say-so. I don’t mind red herrings. 🙂

        • I know Yvette – promise though, you would like this. And we will endure frustration and sadness for a time for sure but shall rise and honesty prevail, eventually. I believe all these things to be true 😀

  11. I enjoy Aird’s books when I read them, but don’t seek them out. But I like the sound of this as a light read, and JJ’s description above makes it very tempting.

  12. Barry Ergang says:

    The only book by Aird I’ve ever read–at least, to date–and read so long ago I recall nothing about it except that I enjoyed it. Then again, locked rooms and other impossible crimes are irresistible lures for me, as they are for TomCat.

  13. I have several Aird books on my shelves, but haven’t read them yet. Your review motivates me to bump an Aird mystery higher on my Read Real Soon stack.

  14. Todd Mason says:

    I think I’ve barely read Aird…something anthologized, I’m sure it wasn’t a novel…and I suspect my assessment of this one would be similar to yours…glad you suspect your niece will find it more engaging…stereotypical “Golden Age,” even if leavened by wit and featuring some late ingenuity, if far-fetched ingenuity, might well try my patience a bit, too…and we know how slim my patience can be.

    Do you think your niece will like the medium-boiled women detectives, the Muller, Paretsky and Grafton novels?

    • Not quite old enough for those yet I suspect. Also, she’s very sensitive and easily gets nightmares, so for now plot ingenuity is what I’m aiming for first and foremost. Not sure she has tried a Christie yet actually …

  15. Matt Paust says:

    Time to check this series out, Sergio. You’ve sold me!

  16. Santosh Iyer says:

    Though you have rated only 2.5, since I am a locked room fan, I have obtained the book and will soon be reading it.

  17. Santosh Iyer says:

    I have finished reading this book and it left me cold. It doesn’t deserve a higher rating than 2.5
    The locked room aspect is clever, but the main story is just Average.
    And yes, it would have worked better as a novella.

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