I remember reading Agatha Christie as a child, thrilled and maddened by the opportunity to track clues in a (mostly) futile attempt to identify the culprit before the Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot reveal. Christie had the unique ability to write about murder with little blood or violence, even as the bodies piled up, making her novels quaintly exciting—so very different from the modern day thrillers full of bombs and guns and mixed martial arts.
I have no idea if A. H. Richardson read Agatha Christie—though I consider it safe to assume as any self-respecting Brit she has—but in reading Murder in Little Shendon, I felt wisps of my childhood days curled up with a Christie mystery. Richardson excels at writing likable and entertaining characters that kept me turning pages, but I missed the panache of the Christie climax. Anytime the story line began to lag, however, I was pulled forward by the richly drawn characters and the dry-humored dialogue.
Richardson wastes no time killing off Bartholomew Fynche, the most reviled man in Little Shendon, within the first few pages. Inspector Stanley Burgess, the local constabulary, quickly realizes solving the murder will be virtually impossible with the meager local resources at his disposal, so he calls in his old friend Sir Victor Hazlitt, a retired MI5 operative, to help with his investigation. Hazlitt shows up to Little Shendon with a famous actor and close friend in tow, the gregarious Beresford Brandon, to help loosen tongues and put the townspeople at ease. As the three men subtly interrogate the village, they discover just about everyone has a reason to want Fynche dead.
Will the three friends find the killer before anybody else dies? You’ll have to crack the spine to find out!