The Cheltenham Square Murder by John Bude

Cheltenham Spa, a town on the edge of the Cotswolds, basically the posh bit of Gloucestershire. Regency Square is a picturesque residence with only a hint of the simmering hostility between certain occupants, to the outsider at least. It’s home to a collection of individuals who, mostly, share a common interest in archery. This fact becomes rather important when one of their number, Captain Cotton, ends up with an arrow in the back of the head. A barbed arrow, chosen for its lethality…

Cotton, being a bit of an undesirable sort, had a number of enemies. But where was the fatal shot fired from? How did the killer disappear carrying a six-foot bow? And when a second murder occurs, it seems that Superintendent Meredith may have been looking in the wrong direction the whole time…

Many thanks to the British Library for this review copy – it was released about six months ago, but the Crime Classics series isn’t going away any time soon. It’s the fifth John Bude book to be released and the fourth to feature Meredith – he’s not in The Cornish Coast Murder. It’s hard to find information about how many Meredith books there are in Bude’s output – while he’s better known that my new interest, Brian Flynn, information seems pretty thin on the ground. Well, thin on the internet, anyway. He wrote thirty books as Bude between 1935 and 1958, so I guess there’s less than thirty Meredith mysteries.

Anyway, he’s not the interesting part of this book – he’s basically a standard Golden Age police investigator, one of those who has to cope without a Poirot or Miss Marple giving him hints all the time. The collection of suspects is a traditional Golden Age set – no butler, but there is a vicar – and the insights into their speculations is one of the highlights of the tale.

Fans of the Golden Age will enjoy this one as it ticks most of the boxes, with the investigation proceeding through various red herrings and twists and turns. Having said that, while this is a very solid entry into the series, it doesn’t quite have the charm of Death On The Riviera, a much later book from Bude. This one is a little oddly paced, as this reader at least was waiting for a twist in the final chapter that never came.

Still, another highly readable and entertaining rediscovery from the British Library. Definitely Worth A Look.

Oh, this is from 1937 so it’s my second book this month for Crimes Of The Century‘s #1937book – although there’s nothing much that dates this, apart from nobody thinking that the entire occupants of a square indulging in archery is a bit odd.

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14 comments

  1. In addition to Cornish Coast Murder, the following 8 books do not involve Meredith:
    Loss Of A Head, Hand On The Alibi, Death Of A Cad, Slow Vengeance,Murder In Montparnasse, A Telegram From Le Toquet, A Twist Of The Rope, The Night The Fog Came Down.
    Thus the number of Meredith Novels will not be more than 21 !

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  2. Never heard of John Bude…it seems that his only novel translated in french was Death in White Pajamas, still available on internet second market at low cost.
    The french title is strange: “les cochons de porcelaine” (aka the porcelain pigs !!!)

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  3. I have all his books and will shortly be selling them on eBay. Before I do I’ll give you a definitive answer to the Meredith question!

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      • Yes, Tony Medawar did mention in October 2006 (more than 10 years back) in a jdcarr.com thread that he possessed all books by John Bude. But he regarded them as “fairly mediocre”. Hence I assumed that he might have sold them by now. 🙂

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