Friday, November 18, 2011

The Affair of the Blood-Stained Egg Cosy, by James Anderson

The Affair of the Blood-Stained Egg Cosy
By James Anderson

But don't expect me to solve anything. I'm not sanguine, not sanguine at all. (Inspector Wilkins)

I'm not generally keen on re-reading books. There are too many books I'd like to read once to allot time to ones I've already read. So it's a measure of my esteem for James Anderson's country house mysteries that I took The Affair of the Blood-Stained Egg Cosy out for another spin recently.

This all came about because I found out that Anderson wrote three of these books, rather than two, as I'd previously thought. After I'd gotten my hands on The Affair of the Mutilated Mink (1981), I decided I might as well revisit the first and third volumes of the series - The Affair of the Blood-Stained Egg Cosy and The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks (2003).

Though the books were not written in the Golden Age of Detection, they might as well have been. They are all set in the 1930s, at the estate of one George Henry Aylwin Saunders, the twelfth Earl of Burford. Other regular players in the cast are the Earl's wife, his daughter Geraldine, and a very proper butler known as Merryweather. And then there's Inspector Wilkins, but more about him in a moment.

This time around the estate is playing host to some delicate and very important political negotiations, in which Lord Burford's diplomat brother is taking part. At the same time Lord Burford, who is quite an avid gun collector, is playing host to a wealthy American who also has a penchant for weaponry. All of which will be quite relevant, of course, when the stiffs start piling up.

At which point Inspector Wilkins appears on the scene. There may be another detective in the annals of crime-solving who's as seemingly inept and lacking in confidence as Wilkins (Lt. Columbo, perhaps), but he's probably pretty near the top of the heap as this sort of thing goes.

If you've read any of Anderson's books then you'll understand the futility of recapping his rather intricate plots, something I'm not going to do. Suffice to say that if you're looking for a bang-up country house mystery you'd do well to start here and then move on to the other two volumes.

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