I know that I came across a description of this series a while back, and I found it – the idea of a detective’s housekeeper doing the lion’s share of the work to help him achieve arrests – off-putting. Perhaps because of the covers I’ve seen for the series I thought it was all played for laughs; the artwork on most of the books makes Inspector Witherspoon look completely oblivious, with Mrs. Jeffries peering in from the side. I was never interested. So it’s odd that I requested this book from Netgalley.
But I did, and in the end it was much better than I expected it to be. It wasn’t great – I can’t imagine reading 35 more along the same lines, and I was startled to read a description of a couple of earlier books in the series that sounded a whole lot like this one; there was one in which it was important that a case be solved by Christmas, and at least one other in which a case was given to inferior Inspector Nivens and, of course, botched.
I did like the characters – Inspector Witherspoon is not a nincompoop, thank goodness, and that makes all the difference. And the author did a nice job at keeping a fairly large cast of characters distinct from each other and pretty consistently interesting … though I really wish the one American character wasn’t written in the dreadful manner of Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie writing an American. Goldarnit. There are a few things the Golden Agers did not do perfectly, and in which they should not be emulated.
There was a bit too much repetition of the basic ideas of “we’ll never solve this old mystery” and “I goofed off today and I’m ashamed but I’ll probably do it again tomorrow because we’ll never solve this old mystery”, and much too much whining about having their holiday plans disrupted. In that they reminded me of my coworkers, who spend half the day talking about the news and the weather and their love lives and tv and a hundred other inane things, and then complain that they don’t have time to do their work. Shut up and buckle down, and maybe you’ll manage.
All in all, I’m not sorry I read it – but I’m in no rush to go read the rest of the (astonishingly long) series.
The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.