'The Secret of High Eldersham' took me back to 1930 and was another book that was an absolute blast to read. I feel like I should be mixing it up a bit, and to that end have been carrying around some very sensible looking books for the last couple of weeks, but I'm not quite in the mood for them. And then I have such an inviting pile of classic crime to get through, and found some splendid looking vintage thrillers in The Works, so maybe I should just give in and go on with the crime (reading) spree.
The secret, or at least one of the secrets, of High Eldersham involves a satanic cult - which is a device I love, at least in this era where the details aren't too explicit and the atmosphere tends towards melodrama. Satanism that looks like it wants to be taken seriously is a different matter. In this case it's mostly a matter of window dressing, and red herrings used to provide a splendidly creepy atmosphere and distract us from what's really going on.
After reading 'The Case of The Missing Brontë' I've also been considering the feasibility of such a cult existing. In the Brontë case it was just about possible to imagine that a lost manuscript could come to light roughly 130 years after it was written, all it needs is an old house, an attic, and some dusty trunks - I've found things that kind of age myself (though nothing more interesting than newspaper clipping, old photos, and the like). Similarly it's easy to imagine that in 1930 it would just be possible in a particularly remote corner of East Anglia there would have been enough remnants of old folk lore and memory to make some rather strange goings on quite feasible (if unlikely).
In tune with the strange goings on 'The Secret of High Eldersham' is more thriller than whodunnit. Samuel Whitehead is a retired policeman who's taken over the Rose and Crown pub just outside the village. He's been there a couple of years and seems well enough liked - until he's found stabbed to death one night. Scotland Yard is called in but doesn't feel like it's getting anywhere, so in turn requests the unofficial help of one Desmond Merrion, ex of the secret service. From here on in things get increasingly exciting and the murder takes something of a back seat.
The conclusion, as it finally unwinds, brings all the elements back together and is thoroughly satisfying, it's everything that's good about this series - books that are big on atmosphere and entertainment as well as being full of interesting period detail. Reading this was a simple, rather than a guilty, pleasure - and one I highly recommend.