August 11, 2015

Book Review: The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude

While not as well known as more prolific counterparts like Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham, John Bude (the pseudonym of Ernest Elmore) wrote novels that are quintessential examples of the British country mysteries of the 1930s. Reprinted by Poisoned Pen Press, The Sussex Downs Murder is now available for the enjoyment of today's mystery readers who enjoy Golden Age detective fiction.

The Sussex Downs Murder tells the story of two brothers, John and William Rother. The Rothers share Chalklands Farm and a lime-burning business on the beautiful Sussex Downs. (Sidenote: I never thought of lime-burning as a business till I read this! I was really interested in that part of the book.) The Rother brothers have never been particularly close, and local gossip has it that William's wife wishes she had married John. But their circumstances don't seem particularly serious until the day that John leaves for vacation. His car is found abandoned and splattered with blood, but there is no sign of him.

The police are stymied by the lack of clues in their hunt for John, and William's gaunt appearance suggests that he's worried about his brother's absence. But then, when human bones are discovered in the Rother lime, Superintendent Meredith becomes convinced that John was murdered, his body parts burned in the lime kiln. Meredith's patient detective work is painstaking but intelligent, letting the reader follow closely as Meredith's focus switches back and forth between the main suspects in the mystery.

A quick, enjoyable read that harkens back to a simpler time of investigation, The Sussex Downs Murder is perfect for those who love early crime fiction but have finished Dorothy Sayers's or Patricia Wentworth's oeuvres. It's a nice little read, which I read all in one afternoon, and really enjoyed. I guessed the ending - but not too early, and I think it would hold anyone's attention!

Do YOU like older British mysteries?

I originally wrote most of this review for Shelf Awareness.