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Sunday, 25 September 2016
‘The Secret of High Eldersham’ by Miles Burton
Published by the British Library.
High Eldersham is a village in East Anglia where the people have secrets that they conceal from the rest of the world. The brewers that own the Rose and Crown, the pub in High Eldersham, found it hard to find a new landlord: the pub did not bring in enough money to keep a man, let alone a family. The owners were delighted when Samuel Whitehead, a retired policeman with a pension, applied to be the landlord of the Rose and Crown. All seemed to be going well until, five years later, Whitehead is discovered by the local police constable, stabbed to death in the bar of his pub.
Detective Inspector Young is sent down from Scotland Yard to investigate. At first Young is dismissive of the constable's warning that the village has a sinister reputation and that 'strangers don't never prosper in High Eldersham.' Many of the strangers trying to make a home in the village Have become ill or, in the case of farmers, their crops and animals died. Young's scepticism fades when he sees a sinister, mutilated doll in a villager's home and he sends for help to his friend, Desmond Merrion.
Merrion is a wealthy amateur investigator of crime and anything else that interests him. He served with distinction in the First World War, has an incisive mind and Young considers him to be 'a living encyclopedia upon all manner of obscure subjects.' When Merrion arrives he encounters the lovely Mavis Owerton, daughter of Sir William Owerton, the most important man in the district. Merrion falls for Mavis at first sight. He continues his investigation, although he knows that Mavis and her father belong in High Eldersham and may be privy to the mysteries that makes the village such a dangerous place for those outside the village secrets. As Merrion probes deeper he reveals a complex web of machinations and deceit that place him in mortal danger.
The Secret of High Eldersham is the first book to introduce Desmond Merrion. It is a well-paced book with skilfully drawn characters and likeable main protagonists, including an engaging hero. The action scenes are full of vigour and the times when Merrion and his companions find themselves under threat are genuinely sinister. A very enjoyable whodunnit in the best tradition of the Golden Age.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Miles Burton was a pseudonym of Cecil Street (1884-1964), a British soldier who became a prolific novelist in the 1920s. He was the author of approximately 140 detective novels, of which the most highly regarded were published under the names Miles Burton and John Rhode.
Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher. She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames. Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her latest book The Fragility of Poppies was published 10 June 2016.