this is the 258th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books
Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm by Gil North, Poisoned Pen Press 2016 – British Library Crime Classics – trade paper. Original publication, Chapman & Hall Ltd. 1960.
This is the first in the eleven novel Sergeant Cluff series.
I bought the first two of the Poisoned Press republishing of the Cluff mystery novels, but read them out of order, starting with The Methods of Sergeant Cluff, which I enjoyed though it struck me as a bit unusual in places. Having now read the first book, or perhaps now that I’ve read both the first two, the setting, characters, especially Cluff himself, make sense.
The setting here is the small village of Gunnarshaw in Yorkshire. As Martin Edwards says in the Introduction,
“It is almost a cliché to compare a strongly evoked setting for a crime novel to a character in the story, but it is undoubtedly true that the sturdy market town of Gunnarshaw, and the bleak, rain-swept moorland outside its boundaries combine to form the perfect complement to Cluff’s dogged personality.“
Well-off Amy Wright, who married late in life to a much younger man, has been found dead in her locked bedroom , the gas fireplace nozzle turned on. The inquest finds suicide, the obvious explanation, but Cluff is not satisfied. He begins to dig into the woman’s life, and that of her young husband, whom he suspects, and pressure builds. Soon things begin to crumble, facts slip away, alibis are questioned and suddenly Cluff finds himself in serious jeopardy.
I very much enjoyed the psychological aspects of this, as well as the characters and setting. A very good first novel, and since I’ve already read the second one, I shall move on to the third, Sergeant Cluff Goes Fishing.
I used to pick up Cluff paperbacks in England all the time, where they were plentiful. I read the first two – coincidentally, like you, I read them in reverse order – on the same day in December of 1993. At the time I was trying to get my reading total for the year up, and was looking for a short, fast read. These certainly fit that bill. I’ve never read another, which may or may not be a commentary, but I must have enjoyed the first one enough or I wouldn’t have read the second. I don’t remember much about Cluff, just the setting, which I was familiar with.
I found aspects of the 2nd in the series a little surreal, but having read the first, and learned more of Cluff’s background and methods from the first book, it all made sense. I do intend to read the third one.
I’m not familiar. but the series sounds interesting
This sounds like a series I should become familiar with, Rick. Thanks for the intro. I love books set in remote, windswept, English locations.
I’ve been pleased with most of the BLCC books, but not with the Cluffs. I read Methods first, like you & Jeff, and HATED it, bailed out a couple chapters into Stands Firm. The problem was North’s telegraphic see-spot-run prose. I expect more literacy from a Cambridge-educated Englishman.
I thought Methods was almost surrealistic, but liked the ending. Stands Firm worked for me, but probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t read the last 1/4 of it. Still, if it’s a matter of style, and in this case it is, to each his own. North certainly has his own way of telling the story.
I’ve read mixed reviews of the Sergeant Cluff books. I might have one around here so I might read it if it surfaces.
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