Welcome to Eastrepps, a lovely town on the Norfolk coast. A perfect destination for that summer getaway, with plenty of healthy sea air. And a rather unhealthy serial killer, the Eastrepps Evil! People are being found dead all over the place and Inspector Wilkins from the Yard is summoned. His attention is drawn to the obvious local nut-case (not a technical term) but perhaps someone else is just as insane but is better at hiding it. Or perhaps there is a very sane motive behind the killings…
In the village is Robert Eldridge, a man with two secrets. The first is scandalous for the time – he is having a liaison with a married woman who lives in Eastrepps. Yes, she’s planning to divorce her husband, but even so, let’s hope nobody finds out! Or that anyone finds out the secret about his previous identity where he swindled countless people out of their life-savings. Oddly, a number of them live in Eastrepps. Even more oddly, some of them seem to have been murdered…
I only heard of Frances Beeding from the recommended reading list for The Bodies From The Library conference but couldn’t find a copy of The Norwich Victims. Odd that, as I’ve found dozens since – maybe I spelled Norwich wrong in the search engine. Rather glad that I did though, as this one is an absolute cracker. So glad that I read this one.
By the way, Beeding was two people, Hilary St George Sanders (is the St George a middle name? how classy!) and John Palmer, both authors in their own right but their collaborations seem to be best known.
It’s been accused of being an early breaker of Robert Knox’s Decalogue of rules for detective fiction which is absolutely true. I’m not convinced that it breaks the rule that people think it does though, although this one is heavily bent. It certainly breaks the one about clues not being revealed to the reader as the main (possibly only) clue comes from a visual thing that is only explained after the fact. And it breaks another one too, but I’m not going to say that one. It’s one that Michael Jecks breaks all the time though, and I have absolutely no problems with that one.
I’m not sure how many other books Inspector Wilkins features in, but he’s probably the weakest link, coming across about as exciting as Inspector Alleyn with less of the brain-power (until the finale where he either works it out incredibly quickly, or he’s suspected something for a while, so why did he … SPOILER). But while my copy advertises this as an Inspector Wilkins mystery, in many ways the character is redundant so his dullness never proves to be a problem.
It’s fair to say that I really enjoyed this one. Highly Recommended and I look forward to The Norwich Victims.