Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Detective Wore Silk Drawers

A few months ago, Deadalus Books had a buy-four-get-one-free mystery sale. They had the next, hard-to-find book in Sharan Newman's Cathereine LeVendur series so I picked four random titles to justify the shipping and take advantage of the sale. Although I didn't realize it, two of the books were the first two on Peter Lovesey's Sergeant Cribb series, written in the 1970s and recently reprinted.

Set in the 1870s, the series features an analytical but essentially underrated Scotland Yard detective. As Sergeant Cribb is mulling over a pint in his local, a man gives him a tip on a body - a headless corpse that has washed ashore. Upon examination, Cribb discovers that the victim was probably a prizefighter and since that sport had recently been outlawed, believes that the crime is larger than a single murder. The titular detective, though, is not Cribb but Detective Jago, a well-born amateur boxer estranged from his family and stuck in a desk job at Scotland Yard. Jago infiltrates the prizefighting ring while Cribb and the plodding Constable Thackery investigate from London. The headless body is actually a bit of a red herring - the main murder occurs later in the book and while there are only two suspects, both have adequate means and motive to keep the audience guessing until Cribb solves the crime.

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