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by Pamela Branch
Rue Morgue Press, April 2006
191 pages
ISBN: 0915230917

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It is an unusual form of detective story presented by Pamela Branch -- few have succeeded in humorous murder. The book's preface, written for this new publication in the USA, reminds us of Phoebe Atwood Taylor and Constance and Gwenyth Little as contemporary writers to Pamela Branch, and Sarah Caudwell and Ruth Dudley Edwards as modern writers, all of whom use humour. I am also reminded of Colin Watson's Flaxborough series in the 1960s and 70s.

Pamela Branch wrote only four books in the 1950s and they were forgotten after her early death. MURDER EVERY MONDAY is a book of its time in some ways (originally published in 1954) but timeless in others. Part of the fun comes in the ridiculous basic premise which is so seriously presented.

A group of people with suitable qualifications have set up a professional homicide consultancy in an ugly manor house in Dorset, England. They conduct a residential course with relevant classes for those who wish to avail themselves of such expert teachings. Classes are held in subjects such as grips, knots, alibis, firearms and court etiquette.

The manor house has been chosen for its ugliness and remoteness, while the menus are planned to be virtually uneatable; the intention is to discourage any but the most serious who are seeking to remove some individual.

The setting of 1954 impinges interestingly on the plot is some places -- the telephone system is certainly currently obsolete and the murder method of pushing victims under trams is harder to achieve nowadays. The characters remain stock ones today -- the Italian-American hoods, the antediluvian colonel, the underdressed blonde and the Creaker, whose expertise is one of nameless horror, are some of them.

It is the dialogue that particularly sparkles as the hapless clients interact with the experienced staff; I also found the details of the contents of the lessons very funny. The crux of the tale is that one of the class has the infinite bad taste to be murdered on the premises.

There is no question of involving the police -- the 'headmaster' is more concerned to discover who has moved ahead of the curriculum in performing such a crude action. The school has been so carefully planned by Clifford Flush, the headmaster in question, that it is the insult to his professionalism that rankles most. I enjoyed reading this book -- its period detail only added to the enjoyment and its wicked ideas are still extremely funny.

Reviewed by Jennifer S. Palmer, September 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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