RogerBW's Blog

Deadlier than the Sword, Jean Rowden 19 November 2015

2008 mystery, second of the "Thorny" Deepbriar series. In rural Yorkshire in 1957, Thorny the village bobby is still trying to get into the CID. But his superiors want him walking the beat where he is. He'll need to pull off an impressive feat of detection, but how can he do that in a village where nothing much happens?

Of course, it does. Someone's setting mantraps on the local paths. A women dies on the arterial road, hit by a lorry: but was it suicide or misadventure? One of Deepbriar's childhood friends comes back to the village, with his bride-to-be, but why is she so nervous? The investigations progress, and things get more complex. Evidence suggests that the mantraps were stolen by one of the guests at a shoot, but they're all powers in the land, and even getting permission to question them will be a challenge. The woman had received a poison-pen letter, and others may have too, but how is the writer getting the information?

We revisit some of the village characters from the previous book, and introduce some new ones. Things gradually come together on the man-trap matter, but the poison-pen looks as though it'll be more intractable. There's some period detail too, such as the legislation banning gin-traps that came into force in 1958 (perhaps mentioned slightly too often, as Deepbriar has to keep explaining that these man-traps that are turning up are already illegal).

This is mostly a slow-moving period piece, with fairly lightweight characterisation that nonetheless gets the job done. The resolutions of the cases are more satisfying than last time, though Rowden does seem to be repeating some of her effects (there's another rich nasty who can't be touched by the police, there's another big robbery that will end up tying in to one of the cases, Deepbriar ends up in hospital again, Deepbriar goes outside the limits of his authority in sorting out a solution).

Still, it's an enjoyable work in a setting that's often neglected in the rush to get from the Second World War to the Swinging Sixties. Followed by More Deaths than One.

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