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.
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.