Book 41/50 The Affair of the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks

James Anderson       fiftyfiftyme: Other

The third and final book in the series of mystery novels featuring Inspector Wilkins, I found this one a little disappointing when measured against the two that preceded it.

The first book in the series had an intricate plot and perfectly captured the spirit of the  “stately home murder mystery” genre it was an homage too. The second was an entertaining mystery with a lot of Wodehousian humour and romance thrown in for fun. This one felt a little pedestrian, as if even the characters in the book knew that it was time to wrap it up and call it a day.

The first sign that the story was not going to match its predecessors was the way in which the identity of the victim was telegraphed, almost from the moment of their introduction. If a murder mystery makes you fervently hope from page one that a particular character will be the victim, then when that character is killed, there’s little mystery about the why. The problem with the setup of this mystery was that the victim was so thoroughly unlikeable that it was obvious they were doomed to die, but that fact also made it pretty obvious who was almost certain to be responsible.

There was also no addition of depth to the central character, Inspector Wilkins. In the first story, he was introduced and we saw him do his Columbo style routine to great effect. In the second, he had to work around an allegedly superior detective sent down from Scotland Yard, and that set up amusing conflict and plot developments. In this one he had neither novelty value nor a foil, and so seemed a little diminished.

I really enjoyed the first two books in the Inspector Wilkins series, enough to want to read some of the author’s other mystery novels. This was not a bad book, but it seemed to have little point. I recommend that readers do what the author didn’t, and stop after the second book.

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