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The Lake District Murder by John Bude

The Lake District Murder (1935)

by John Bude

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This is another one in the colourful series of reissues of 1930s crime novels, several of them by this author. I've read this on holiday in the Lake District, albeit that this is set around Derwent Water in the north, rather than around Windermere where I am holidaying. The sleuth is again Inspector Meredith, who attempts to solve the mystery by solid gathering of evidence and reasoning; he is a conventional policeman type, no slightly eccentric individual such as Poirot or Miss Marple. The murder mystery is suitably intriguing - a man is found in a car in a remote garage in circumstances suggesting he has committed suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning, but there is of course more behind this. Most of the book though is taken up with Meredith and colleagues pieceing together evidence of smuggling, and while this was a reasonable plot, I thought the story got bogged down with too much technical detail about the transport of petrol and how to distil spirits illegally, so my interest wandered rather. All the same, these are overall satisfying reads. ( )
  john257hopper | Jul 21, 2017 |
The Lake District Murder is a classic procedural mystery from Golden Age mystery writer John Bude. A gas station owner is found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning, an apparent suicide. However, keen-eyed Inspector Meredith notes a few odd discrepancies, enough to request an autopsy that reveals the man was drugged and the suicide was a ruse to cover up a murder.

The investigation reveals no obvious motive and the only person who would make a good suspect has a solid alibi. However, the dead man left far too much money behind, so clearly something was up, but was it blackmail or some larger scheme or conspiracy?

With dogged persistence, Meredith keeps investigating, finding small loose threads that he relentlessly tugs to unravel this complex mystery.

Published in 1935, The Lake District Murder was Bude’s second book and featured Inspector Meredith who would be the primary detective in most of his mysteries for the rest of his career. The Lake District Murder has an old-fashioned feel to it, with its emphasis on the mechanics of the crime and disregard for character development. The criminals are not developed characters, most of the investigation occurs without their knowledge that they are even suspects. We know their movements down to the minute, but we know nothing else about them.

The police, including Inspector Meredith, are equally ciphers. They do their job with professionalism. There are no personalities, no sergeant who likes to tipple and no leering louche detectives. They do their jobs, report their findings and discuss the assembled clues, poking and prodding, looking for flaws, for suggestions for more investigation. This is investigation as ratiocination.

The Lake District Murder is as fair as a mystery novel can be. Every clue is known to us, we are privy to the deductive reasoning and even the inferences that Inspector Meredith and his superiors employ. Nothing is hidden which gives the story a plodding feel from time to time, though you could call it verisimilitude to the actual process of investigation which can be tedious and painstaking. There is overwhelming detail, for example, of the process of investigating shipments and deliveries. Perhaps because readers in 1935 had not seen several hundred hours of television dramas, every single step of the operation was explained.

There are interesting artifacts of the past in the story. When a list of names and addresses needs to transmitted from one location to another, the superintendent and inspector pass their phones to subordinates who are tasked with the tedium, the 1935 version of sending a fax. Meredith is clever at figuring out ways to collect evidence, even creating a sieve to quite literally catch evidence as it’s being disposed of.

The mystery is complex and while there is a bit of whodunnit, The Lake District Murder is much more about the how and why and even more difficult, how to prove it. As a modern mystery reader, I missed the elements of character development that draw us in. Most of the characters could be named x, y, and z for how much we get to know them. Meredith is equally flat. The liveliest character is his wife who has enough personality to discourage their son from pursuing the police as a career. Instead, the characters are their roles and not much more. I did not dislike the mystery, not at all, but I would like it more if it dialed up the character development just a bit and dialed down the specificity of who is going to be watching whom for how long when.

While he was not a member of the famed Detection Club with the greats like Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and Agatha Christie, he was a co-founder of the more egalitarian Crime Writers Association.

The Lake District Murder will be released on December 6th. I was provided an e-galley by NetGalley.

http://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/the-lake-district-murder-b... ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Dec 2, 2016 |
This book was sent to me by Poisoned Pen Press via NetGalley. Thank you.

John Bude’s second novel, originally published in 1935 and reissued as part of the British Library Crime Classics series, is a down-to-the-minute puzzle. A young garage owner is murdered and the scene suggests an attempt to make it appear a suicide. It falls to Inspector Meredith to follow each clue, no matter how implausible, to identify the killer. He does this by noting the movement of each character within a narrow span of time.

It is obvious early on to Meredith that the answer to the puzzle revolves around the delivery of fuel to the various garages, hotels and pubs in the area. He soon fixes on one particular lorry and the two crew members. How could the driver and his mate make it from point A to point B in an allotted span of time? How could a tank which holds 1000 gallons of fuel deliver 1200 gallons of fuel?

I admit the plot which revolves so much on trucks and fuel deliveries did not hold my interest. I appreciate the fact that in 1935 Britain cars and petrol stations were still a novelty and, therefore, fascinating to a certain audience. The modern reader might find it quaint. Still, as a period piece it was great fun to imagine the main transportation for Inspector Meredith is a motorcycle with a sidecar attached!

About two-thirds through the book, the plot does a 180 degree turn into the realm of the highly unlikely. And for all of his timetables and measurements, Meredith’s solution comes down to coincidence and luck. ( )
  Liz1564 | Nov 16, 2016 |
This was a very slow read. It was not my favourite of the British Library Crime Classics series.

When what appeared to be the suicide of a petrol station owner turned out to be murder, Meredith begins by investigating a petrol fraud that may be linked. What followed was a detailed investigation requiring multiple locations to be kept under surveillance for days. Police budgets were not even mentioned. Neither was breaking the law to get information. Need to search a property? A break and enter will handle that. The fraud investigation continued for so long that even Inspector Meredith had forgotten about the murder. He was not the only one.

After filling half the book with the petrol fraud investigation it was found to have no basis and the inquiry took a different turn. Written in 1935 when women seldom had a major role in crime fiction by male authors, their absence is glaring in this yarn. Pity - a woman like Miss Marple would have found the solution much quicker that the ineffective Inspector Meredith.

One thing I liked was the name of the petrol company - Nonock. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Jul 11, 2016 |
3½/5 ( )
  Bagpuss | Jan 17, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0712357165, Paperback)

The Lake District Murder opens with the discovery of a faceless body in an isolated garage, then follows Inspector Meredith through a complex investigation where every clue seems to lead only to another puzzle. Was this a bizarre suicide, or something more sinister? Why was the dead man apparently making plans to flee the country? And what does all this have to do with the newly discovered shady business dealings of the garage? All becomes clear in time, but not before John Bude has led readers through a rousing investigation, full of unexpected twists and turns, set against the stunning backdrop of the Lake District.
This newest installment in the British Library Crime Classics series takes readers to the Lake District for a perfect example of the cozy mystery, sure to charm all fans of the genre.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:20 -0400)

CRIME & MYSTERY. When a body is found at an isolated garage, Inspector Meredith is drawn into a complex investigation where every clue leads to another puzzle: was this a suicide, or something more sinister? Why was the dead man planning to flee the country? And how is this connected to the shady business dealings of the garage? This classic mystery novel is set amidst the stunning scenery of a small village in the Lake District. It is now republished for the first time since the 1930s.… (more)

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