Review: The Cornish Coast Murder (1935) by John Bude

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The British Library Publishing Division, 2014. Format: Kindle. File Size: 1753 KB. Print Length: 286 pages. With an introduction by Martin Edwards.  ASIN: B00IJYGJHM. ISBN: 978 1 910633 12 0.

cornishcoastmurderSynopsis: The Reverend Dodd, vicar of the quiet Cornish village of Boscawen, spends his evenings reading detective stories by the fireside – but heaven forbid that the shadow of any real crime should ever fall across his seaside parish. But the vicar’s peace is shattered one stormy night when Julius Tregarthan, a secretive and ill-tempered magistrate, is found at his house in Boscawen with a bullet through his head. The local police inspector is baffled by the complete absence of clues. Suspicion seems to fall on Tregarthan’s niece, Ruth – but surely that young woman lacks the motive to shoot her uncle dead in cold blood? Luckily for Inspector Bigswell, the Reverend Dodd is on hand, and ready to put his keen understanding of the criminal mind to the test. This classic mystery novel of the golden age of British crime fiction is set against the vividly described backdrop of a fishing village on Cornwall’s Atlantic coast. It is now republished for the first time since the 1930s, with a new introduction by Martin Edwards.

From the introduction (by Martin Edwards): `The appearance of this British Library edition of The Cornish Coast Murder will be welcomed not only by collectors who have despaired of ever possessing a copy of their own, but also by crime fiction readers generally. Few will be familiar with Bude’s name and work, but the pleasure given by this lively and well-crafted story is likely to tempt many to explore his later work as well. They will not be disappointed.`

My take: The action takes place in Boscawen, a fictional village close to the Cornish coast. The story revolves around the murder of Julian Tregarthan, a magistrate found dead from a gunshot at his home. Initially the local police inspector, Bigswell, takes up the case. The deceased magistrate was opposed to the sentimental relationship that Ronald Hardy, a young writer who lives in a neighbouring cottage, maintains with his niece Ruth. The first indications point to her as the most obvious suspect. Apparently, she had had a strong argument with her uncle shortly before the likely time of his death and, heatedly, she left the house in spite of the bad weather. She claims she went to see Ronald but, unable to find him, she returned home where she found what happened to her uncle. Now, Ronald has gone missing which seriously compromises him, and becomes the main suspect. To complicate matters further, a third suspect arises. However, the evidence is not always conclusive and, on some occasions, it’s conflicting. But for Reverend Dodd, Vicar of St. Michael’s-on-the-Cliff,  the two young lovers are clearly innocents. He himself, a detective fiction enthusiast, decides to take matters into his own hands.

I must admit I’ve enjoyed this book very much, a delightful and light reading very appropriate for a peaceful summer day. The story, maybe a bit irrelevant, is quite entertaining and is well-told. As set out in the Introduction, The Cornish Coast Murder provides some clues that can help us explain the reason why, Bude’s books, have become increasingly recognised nowadays:  ‘His writing style is relaxed and rather more polished than one would expect from a first-time novelist, and he pays more attention to characterisation and setting than many of his contemporaries’. And, as Martin Edwards ends up saying, although his works are not up to par with Sayers’ literary style or with Agatha Christie’s concerning the complexity of the plot, certainly they don’t deserve the oblivion in which they fell for some time. If, at some stage, I feel the need to alternate a ‘cosy mystery’, with other books that may have a darkest or bleakest tone, I have no doubt that I’ll read another book by John Bude. I would not wish to overlook the fact that this book can be considered a police procedural in its initial stage. I really enjoyed the way the Vicar analysed the path of the bullets. 

My rating: B (I really liked it).

About the author: John Bude was the pseudonym of Ernest Elmore (1901–1957), an author of the golden age of crime fiction. Elmore was a co-founder of the Crime Writers’ Association, and worked in the theatre as a producer and director. Writing as John Bude, Elmore published thirty crime novels, with Inspector William Meredith appearing in most of them. The first two, both of which were published in 1935, were The Lake District Murder and The Cornish Coast Murder, followed the next year by The Sussex Downs Murder. These three have since been reprinted by the British Library. Fellow British crime author Martin Edwards commented: ‘Bude writes both readably and entertainingly. His work may not have been stunning enough to belong with the greats, but there is a smoothness and accomplishment about even his first mystery, The Cornish Coast Murder, which you don’t find in many début mysteries.’

Other reviews:

This is a pleasant mystery and competently written, although the way the author re-visits and refreshes the reader’s mind as to the clues that have been discovered is slightly clunky and can feel a little repetitive at times. But that was the way back then, and crime fiction has come on in leaps and bounds (Crime Squad).

It all makes for a very entertaining mystery, a fairly quick and enjoyable read. The new edition from the British Library Crime Classics includes a new introduction by mystery writer Martin Edwards, who notes that Bude paid more attention to his characters and his settings than many of his contemporaries did. It is good to have Bude’s work brought back into print. (Classic Mysteries)

Despite the fact that it was published in 1935, this is a delightful find for those who love cozies, …. A question that the Reverend Dodd asks himself early on is whether the methods he uses to solve the puzzles in the detective fiction would work as well if he were confronted by the real thing. And then he has the opportunity to assist Inspector Bigswell in the solving of a real life murder, and he knows he will never feel the same about crime fiction. (Mysteries in Paradise)

For a debut mystery novel this is admirable work though not without a few faults. …Nevertheless the writing is straightforward, the characters are believable and appealing and there are enough puzzles to keep the reader both engaged and mystified. Reverend Dodd would have made for a nice series character, but Bude chose not to develop him further. (Pretty Sinister Books).

It’s very well written, with the Reverend Dodd in particular coming across as a very charming lead (although points off for all of the “if this was a mystery novel instead of being real” bits, a personal bugbear.) Bigswell is a little bland to be honest, but the book ticks along at a steady rate and it’s nice to have a detective who shares his thoughts with the reader – we solve it as he solves it. I’ve seen some people claim that it’s not a solvable mystery, but there is one clue – admittedly, only one clue – to the murderer but it’s more of an issue that the killer is… better not say, as it’ll be a spoiler. Put it this way, if you’re guessing, there’s a good reason why you won’t guess this one. (In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel).

British Library Crime Classics publicity page


Asesinato en la costa de Cornualles de John Bude

Sinopsis: El Reverendo Dodd, párroco de la tranquila localidad de Boscawen en Cornualles, pasa las tardes leyendo novelas policíacas junto a la chimenea, pero no quiera Dios que la sombra de ningún crimen auténtico caiga nunca sobre su parroquia junto al mar. Pero la paz del párroco se rompe una noche de tormenta cuando Julio Tregarthan, un reservado y mal humorado magistrado, es encontrado en su casa de Boscawen con una bala en la cabeza. El inspector de la policía local está desconcertado ante la ausencia total de pistas. Las sospechas parecen caer sobre la sobrina de Tregarthan, Ruth, pero acaso no carece la joven de motivo alguno para matar a su tío de un disparo a sangre fría? Por suerte para el inspector Bigswell, el reverendo Dodd está presente y listo para poner a prueba su profundo conocimiento de la mente criminal. Esta clásica novela de misterio de la edad de oro de la novela británica de detectives tiene como escenario un pueblo de pescadores en la costa atlántica de Cornualles graficamente descrito. Ahora se publica de nuevo por primera vez desde los años 1930, con una nueva introducción de Martin Edwards.

De la introducción (por Martin Edwards): ‘”La aparición de esta edición de la British Library de Asesinato en la costa de Cornualles será bien recibida no sólo por los coleccionistas que hayan perdido la esperanza de poseer alguna vez una copia propia, sino también por los lectores de novelas de destectives en general. Pocos estarán familiarizados con el nombre y la obra de Bude, pero el placer que proporciona esta entretenida y bien elaborada historia  es probable que tiente a muchos a explorar también su obra posterior. No se verán decepcionados”.

Mi opinión: La acción tiene lugar en Boscawen, un pueblo ficticio cerca de la costa de Cornualles. La historia gira en torno al asesinato de Julian Tregarthan, un juez encontrado muerto de un disparo en su casa. Inicialmente, el inspector de la policía local, Bigswell, se hace cargo del caso. El magistrado fallecido se oponía a la relación sentimental que Ronald Hardy, un joven escritor que vive en una casa vecina, mantiene con su sobrina Ruth. Los primeros indicios apuntan a ella como el más obvio sospechoso. Al parecer, ella había tenido una fuerte discusión con su tío, poco antes de la hora probable de su muerte y, acaloradamente, salió de la casa a pesar del mal tiempo. Ella dice que fue a ver a Ronald, pero, incapaz de encontrarlo, regresó a su casa, donde se encontró con lo que le pasó a su tío. Ahora, Ronald ha desaparecido lo que le compromete seriamente, y se convierte en el principal sospechoso. Para complicar más las cosas, surge un tercer sospechoso. Sin embargo, las pruebas no son siempre concluyentes y, en algunas ocasiones, son contradictorias. Pero para el reverendo Dodd, párroco de St. Michael’s-en-el-acantilado, los dos jóvenes amantes son claramente inocentes. Él mismo, un entusiasta de la novela policíaca, decide tomar el asunto en sus propias manos. .

Debo admitir que me ha gustado mucho este libro, una deliciosa y ligera lectura muy apropiada para un día tranquilo de verano. La historia, tal vez un poco irrelevante, es bastante entretenida y está bien contada. Como se indica en la introducción, Asesinato en la costa de Cornualles nos ofrece algunas pistas que pueden ayudar a explicar la razón por la cual, los libros de Bude,  han vuelto a estar cada vez más reconocidos hoy en día: “Su estilo de escritura es relajado y bastante más pulido de lo que cabría esperar de un principiante, y presta más atención que muchos de sus contemporáneos a la caracterización y a la ambientación “. Y, como Martin Edwards termina diciendo, aunque sus obras no están a la par con el estilo literario de Sayers o con Agatha Christie en cuanto a la complejidad de la trama, lo cierto es que no merecen el olvido en el que cayeron durante algún tiempo. Si, en algún momento, siento la necesidad de alternar un “cosy mystery”, con otros libros que pueden tener un tono más oscuro o más sombrío, no tengo ninguna duda de que voy a leer otro libro de John Bude. No me gustaría pasar por alto el hecho de que este libro puede considerarse como un procedimiento policial  en sus inicios. Me gustó mucho la forma en que el párroco analizó la trayectoria de las balas.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó mucho).

Sobre el autor: John Bude era el seudónimo de Ernest Elmore (1901-1957), un autor de la Edad de Oro de la novela de detectives. Elmore fué uno de los fundadores de la Asociación de Escritores de Ficción Criminal, y trabajó en el teatro como productor y director. Como John Bude, Elmore publicó treinta novelas de detectives,en su mayoría protagonizadas por el inspector William Meredith. Las dos primeras, ambas publicadas en 1935, fueron Asesinato en el Distrito de los Lagos y Asesinato en la costa de Cornualles, seguidas de Asesinato en Sussex Downs al año siguiente. Las tres se han vuelto a reeditar por primera vez desde entonces  por la Biblioteca Británica. El escritor británico de novelas de ficción criminal Martin Edwards ha observado que “Bude escribe tanto de manera legible como entretenida. Su trabajo puede no ser lo suficientemente impactante como  para pertenecer a los grandes, pero hay en él una fluidez y una habilidad incluso en su primer misterio, Asesinato en la costa de Cornualles, que no se encuentra en muchos primeros  misterios.”

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