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by Roger Silverwood
Robert Hale, March 2012
223 pages
19.99 GBP
ISBN: 0709095732

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A body is found near to an elderly teacher's farm it has apparently been killed by a large cat. Inspector Angel, a highly respected detective, is suspicious, and is reluctant to leave the case and move on. The teacher's family had worked in the past with large cats but Angel believes the murderer was human, not feline. When another body turns up in similar circumstances, Angel knows that he has a murderer on the loose but has difficulties knowing where to start when there are no clues, just a strange smell that keeps turning up in unexpected places.

This is a textbook example of a classic murder mystery. The plot has a crime at the start, a period of time developing the mystery, with a few false leads, until the inspector has a clue or two. Then the building of suspense as he sets out to test his theories, and following some intriguing twists, the solution of the mystery finally becomes clear. The only divergence is in the domestic arrangements of the inspector and his wife.

The descriptive sections of the book include keenly observed everyday observations: the way a cat flees from an approaching stranger, then stops and looks, and then flees again; a group huddled together watching someone use an acetylene torch to cut into a metal box, shielding their eyes and watching the point of the flame; school photos, typical of the second half of the twentieth century, with the captions, likely to be remembered well by those in school during that period.

The writing is enlivened by some very apt and often amusing similes; "the sky as black as fingerprint ink"; "wincing like a bald judge with a scratchy wig on a hot day"; "as happy as a man with toothache waiting to be interviewed by Her Majesty's Inspector of Taxes." The touches of wry humour extend to other references too such as the choice of the "local branch of the Weavers, Menders and Shoddy Workers trades union," rather than something more dour.

The relationship between the inspector and his wife harks back to a previous era when women were expected not only to have tea on the table at precisely the right time but also to wash up and make the coffee too! The inspector's view of a young female police constable also dates the tale when she puts her hand to her mouth on the discovery of some cupboards full of bones. This would have been fine if THE CHESHIRE CAT MURDERS were set some fifty years ago. But numerous up-to-date references such as many mentions of mobile phones and LED displays, President Obama speaking of the BP oil leak, the events of 7/7, and the use of computerised hospital records make it clear that it is taking place in the present.

Overall the book evokes a comfortable feeling of a very competent murder mystery partly located in the past, but not quite. It is an enjoyable read nevertheless.

Sylvia Maughan is a retired university lecturer, based in Bristol.

Reviewed by Sylvia Maughan, October 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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