The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop by Gladys Mitchell was first published in 1930 and it’s the second book in which Mrs Bradley is the sleuth. She’s a particularly unappealing elderly lady with yellow skin and fingers like claws who has a horrible habit of addressing people younger than her as ‘child’. Under those circumstances I find it amazing that she didn’t become a murder victim herself.
But it’s a man’s body which has been discovered hanging up on meat hooks in a butcher’s shop, having been cut up into joints. However the head is missing.
Rupert Sethleigh, the owner of the local manor house is also missing, supposedly having suddenly left for America, but that seems unlikely. Sethleigh is not popular in the neighbourhood and it turns out that he’s a blackmailing moneylender with lots of potential enemies. Is he the murder victim?
I can’t say that I was enthralled with this book but it took me a while to get through it, just because I’ve been busy recently and it seemed to me to be a bit disjointed (no pun intended – or was it?) The blurb on the front from the Independent says ‘Superbly odd’ – it’s definitely that. On the other hand it does have a skull on the cover so if you’re that way inclined that’s a plus. One reason why I prefer vintage crime to contemporary crime fiction is that I find the modern book to be more grisly than I’m comfortable with but I found the idea of a murder victim’s limbs and torso hanging up on butcher’s hooks in a shop fairly horrible and quite extreme for something published in 1930.