This book was first published in 1932 and features Mrs Bradley as the detective, she isn’t the most appealing of characters which is probably why these books never reached the dizzy heights of Christie with the much cosier Miss Marple. In fact I’m sure Mrs Bradley is described as having yellow skin and claw-like nails and she screeches horribly. She’s a psychoanalyst and a devotee of Sigmund Freud. There are a fair few truly eccentric villagers and one fat cat financier who weighs up everyone, wealth-wise and when he hears that Mrs Bradley has been married and widowed twice he says: Gosh, got that amount of money has she? Well, it made me laugh.
The tale is told by Noel Wells, he’s a curate in a sleepy village called Saltmarsh. Noel has fallen for Daphne, who is the niece of Mr Coutts the vicar, he has the misfortune to be married to a ghastly woman who is obsessed with the love life of the villagers and spends her time spying on them and then raging and carping about their behaviour. When she discovers that her unmarried housemaid is pregnant she dismisses her and suspects her husband the vicar is the father.
It’s an enjoyble read, a good mystery with some humour too. Considering that this is a 1932 publication the morals of the villagers are really surprising as it seems to be the custom in the village to wait until the female gets pregnant before the marriage takes place, they find that to be a sensible way of going about life.
I know that we laugh nowadays saying that sex didn’t exist until the 1960s but really when I think back to the 1970s, in Scotland it was shocking for a girl to be pregnant before getting married and the few I knew of were forced by their parents to give their babies up for adoption. Changed days now as the kids are often the page boys and flower girls at the wedding – not that I’m complaining.