Sunday, January 25, 2009

Guest Blog – Death Cap by June Thomson

During the extremely icy and snowy first weeks of this month, I returned all of my library books and did not check out any others. Because of that I had to resort to going through the old paperbacks around my house. When I do that, I frequently find books I have read before but can remember nothing about. This time I picked up an unknown author, June Thomson. Thanks to the internet I have been able to discover that she was born in 1930 and published a new novel as recently as 2006. Death Cap was her second mystery and it was published in 1971. As I was browsing the Internet, I kept coming across information saying that she has written mystery novels about Sergeant Tom Boyce and Detective Chief Inspector Jack Finch. Well, DCI Finch did not feature in the novel that I read but Death Cap was there clustered among those with presumably these two leading characters. Finally I came across a site that explained the conflict. Apparently for some reason Finch became Rudd in the novels when they were published in the United States. At the time the novels flew across the Atlantic, was Jack Finch a well known name in other circles? I don’t know.

Death Cap typifies the cozy English novel. It has all of the elements of a good “home by the winter fire” read. Small town. Just a handful of suspects. In fact I have realized that there is very little difference between a cozy mystery written in 1971 versus one written in 1931. Technology had yet to burst upon the scene. Is it the 1990s before DNA testing and computers and cell phones changed how every mystery would be written? I love mysteries but am not an expert in the genre. Even at that, do you realize that 1990 was almost 20 years ago? I think that mysteries will never be written the same as the days when Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie were writing.

Death Cap is the investigation into a seemingly accidental death from eating a poisonous fungus mixed in with mushrooms. The tedious police procedural is well defined. It becomes apparent that it was no accident that the amanita phalloides found its way into the farmer’s field of mushrooms, but is there any way to discover who is responsible for putting them there or of finding enough evidence to arrest that person? That is the real mystery in this novel. Thomson manages to produce a very satisfying ending to this bucolic puzzle.

Although there were times when I felt that the novel was moving slowly, I will be checking to see if some of Thomson’s more recent mysteries are in my local library. I will also be interested to find out whether it is Finch or Rudd who is the DCI.


Wanna-Be Lit said...

I haven't read a cozy mystery forever. I wonder why? I used to love them so much.

Blogger said...

I used to love reading. What happened to me?