Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks, by James Anderson

The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks
By James Anderson

A cuff can mean a sort of slap on the head. Links are seaside golf courses. So we could surmise that the deceased lady once hit somebody on a golf course, and this was an act of revenge. (Inspector Wilkins)

You can't help feeling sorry for the residents of Alderley. It's the estate of George Henry Aylwin Saunders, the twelfth Earl of Burford, who lives there with his wife, his daughter Gerry, the butler Merryweather, and the usual assortment of household staff. These are surprisingly likable people, particularly when you stack them up against those upper-class English types so often found in other mystery novels.

You have to feel sorry for the Earl and family because in the last year or so they've been plagued by two rather high profile outbreaks of crime, each taking place during country house weekends attended by a wide variety of guests. In The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks a similar scenario is about to play itself out again.

Cufflinks is the last of Anderson's three Alderley books and in the real world there was a 28 year span between the events of the first one - The Affair of the Blood-Stained Egg Cosy (1975) and this. In between readers were treated to the events that made up The Affair of the Mutilated Mink (1981).

Cufflinks features another gathering of the usual diverse cast of characters, but this time around they're not at Alderley for a party. One of the Earl's elderly relatives has recently died and requested to be buried in the family plot. For reasons of convenience, the Burfords have cautiously agreed to host a post-funeral gathering, followed by a reading of the will.

Which sounds simple enough and in theory it should all go relatively smoothly, but this being a James Anderson novel it's not long before murder breaks out and the plot thickens, weaves, twists and turns to the point that the reader may need a pill to fend off motion sickness. Of course, Inspector Wilkins is on hand to do the thing that he does, but this time around he seems not to be relying quite so much on his stupid cop act.

Of course, for fans of the Alderley books this is where the road ends, since Anderson passed on a few years after the publication of Cufflinks. It's been mentioned (in these pages and presumably elsewhere) that there's a fourth, unfinished Alderley book lying about somewhere, but time will only tell what the future holds in this area.

In the meantime I highly recommend that anyone with a love for old-school country house murder mysteries check out Anderson's work immediately, if not sooner.

Note: I reviewed a hardcover copy of the book, but the image of the audiobook was too good not to include here.

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