by Gladys Mitchell first published in 1945
Every full moon a Ripper runs amok on the streets of Brentford. Masters Simon and Keith Innes set out to catch the killer under the disturbing guidance of the repellently delightful and now immortal sleuth, Mrs. Bradley. full of the very British eccentric goings-on that mark the popular tales of Gladys Mitchell, this shows her at her mordant and morbid best.
This was my first Mrs. Bradley mystery, can you believe it!? I watched an episode of the BBC Mrs. Bradley Mysteries with Diana Rigg and didn’t care for it, I think that put me off the books. But I loved this book. Mrs. Bradley didn’t even figure greatly in it, almost half way through before she arrived and she came across as a minor character. Two young boys, Simon, thirteen years old and his younger brother Keith were the main sleuths.
Simon and Keith live with their brother, Jack and his wife June and their little toddler, Tom. Their parents died and left them orphans. There is also a boarder living with the household to bring in a little extra money, Christina. The boys are crazy about her and she is the one who shows them affection and fun. June is good to them, but not affectionate. The boys are excited about the circus coming to town and have scouted out the layout and made their plans to sneak in under the tent on opening night. But a murdered woman is found. She’s one of the circus people. That puts the kibosh on the circus! What will the boys do for fun now? Hanging around the eccentric old Mrs. Cockerton’s antique shop is their favorite pastime. They know every inch of that store and old item in it.
There are several more murders, all during a full moon and the village is in a panic. Suspicion is on everyone, even the boys brother, Jack. Where did he go that night, why were his coat sleeves wet, like he had washed his hands in the river, and where did his leather knife go? The boys are pretty sure they saw the murderer down by the river with the knife in his hands that night of the first murder. When an old leather knife, just like Jack’s, mysteriously shows up among the items in Mrs. Cockerton’s shop window, the hunt is on!
I liked the boys. They were good boys with a routine around the village. You could visualize the paths along the river and the town. I liked their relationships with Christina and Mrs. Cockerton. She was just eccentric enough to make her interesting. Christina is single so there is a hint of romance with her and wondering who she will end up with. June is jealous of her and there is tension at home. A good solid read.
This fulfills the “Time in Title” category under “When” in the gold era Just the Facts Notebook @My Reader’s Block. The murders always happened at the time of the full moon! Also counts for Cloak and Dagger.