Dover One: A Mystery

by Joyce Porter
first published in 1964, first in a series.

For its own very good reasons, Scotland Yard sends Dover off to remote Creedshire to investigate the disappearance of a young housemaid, Juliet Rugg. Though there’s every cause to assume that she has been murdered – she gave her favors freely and may even have stooped to a bit of blackmail – no body is to be found. Weighing in at sixteen stone, she’d be rather hard to overlook. But where is she? And why should Dover, of all people, be called upon to find her? Or, for that matter, even bother to solve the damned case?

I’m not sure what to say about this book! I’m of mixed opinion. The main detective, Chief Inspector Dover, is as unlikable as they come!  To be honest there really wasn’t any character in the whole book likable.  Sgt. MacGregor might have been if his character had been delved into a little, he was overshadowed by Dover. Let me introduce you to Chief Inspector Dover…

 ‘Detective Chief Inspector Wilfred Dover was a big man. His six-foot-two frame was draped, none too elegantly, in seventeen and a quarter stone of flabby flesh, an excessive proportion of which had settled round his middle.  Well-cut clothing can, of course, do wonders to conceal such natural defects as the spread of middle age, but Dover bought his suits ready-made, and the one he was wearing at the moment had been purchased a long time ago. It was made of shiny blue serge. Round his thick, policeman’s neck he wore a blue-striped collar which was almost submerged in the folds of fat, and a thin, cheap tie was knotted under the lowest of his double chins. He wore a long, dark blue overcoat and stout black boots.

   Over the whole of this unprepossessing ensemble there was, naturally enough, Dover’s face. It was large and flabby like the rest of him. Only the details – nose, mouth and eyes – seemed out of scale. They were so tiny as to be almost lost in the wide expanse of flesh. Dover had two small, mean, button-like eyes, a snub little nose and a sulky rosebud of a mouth. He looked like one of those pastry men that children make on baking day out of odd scraps, with currants for eyes – an uncooked pastry man, of course. His hair was thin and black and he had a small black mustache of the type the the late Adolf Hitler did so much to depopularize.’

He burps, scratches, rumbles and when he speaks its describes as…screamed in fury, snapped, commented nastily, growled sourly, grunted, roared, he digested moodily, scowled blackly, made no attempt to keep exasperation out of his voice. Not a very pretty picture painted of this lazy man!

The victim, Juliet Rugg, wasn’t painted much better. She was ‘obese’, wore layers of make-up which was never washed off, nails thick with grime, revolting, intolerable behavior, a nymphomaniac, blackmailing single mother who pawned her kid off on her mother. No one had a kind word to say about her. We don’t know for almost the whole book if she is murdered or kidnapped.

I do love eccentric, quirky characters and this book is full of them! I wish just one of them stood out as likable. That said, I did read a review on Goodreads that said this is not one to judge Porter or the Dover books on. It is the first one and the character of Dover gets better with each one as Ms. Porter developed him and that she does eccentric characters beautifully. I’m glad to hear that as I have Dover Two and Dover Three on the shelf too. There are 15 in the series! It wasn’t a book that pulled in and begged me to pick it up. I sort of thought oh, I need to finish this, but when it was all said and done it wasn’t a half bad mystery. I told you I had mixed opinions on it!

This fulfills the hat category in the Silver era Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt @ My Reader’s Block.