Thursday, August 13, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: The Flaxborough Crab by Colin Watson

 Back in 2018, I discovered (thanks to Netgalley) the re-released Flaxborough Chronicles of Colin Watson. Starting with Coffin Scarcely Used, which I loved, I started reading my way through several of them. In general, I liked the earlier books better. I got them a bit out of order, and stopped with what I think was the last in the series, but missed some along the way. One of these, The Flaxborough Crab, has been on my kindle queue for quite a while, so I finally loaded it up to read.

This is book six in the series. Again, it pits Detective Purbright against the criminal element. Purbright is an intelligent, methodical, and generally unexcitable chief detective in a small English town that sees more than its fair share of crime. The book begins with an off-putting series of sex crimes, off-putting because of the response to them. Watson has an ironic style that doesn’t fit well with attempted rape and flashing. The police seem amused by the crimes and some even hint that some of the women took pride in the excitement of being harassed, commenting also on the relative attractiveness of the victims.

However, that aside, the plot (typically far-fetched in this satirical crime novel series) holds together. The author’s skill at humorous description remains the best part of the book. The story is sped along by the reappearance of Miss Teatime, a fiercely intelligent con artist who has the habit of becoming embroiled in the adventures and aiding Purbright, but whose motives are generally mercenary.

While my enthusiasm for the series has faded somewhat over the years, I still find that once I start one of the books, I can’t put it down. I’m carried along by the old-fashioned dry wit of the narrator. If you like old-style British humor, this series delivers.

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