Our persistent and clever detective is Det-Sgt. Colson ably assisted by a lawyer and inadvertent detective of sorts in the person of Canon Fittleworth. To be truthful the Canon is an accidental obstructor of justice because he finds and pockets a distinctive cigar label rather than handing it over to the police. For a while I thought perhaps Whitechurch meant us to think this absentminded member of the clergy was involved in a cover-up. Whitechurch, being a canon himself, would never stoop to such a sacrilege. Eventually the Canon hands over the cigar label at the inquest which leads to an intriguing sort of shell game that I immediately picked up on though I was incorrect in my assuming who did the switcheroo.
|Victor L. Whitechurch in his youth|
In addition to the puzzle of the cigar label there is a clever bit of code breaking of sorts when Colson and his crew discover a blotting pad with a string of words missing some letters. We are courteously given that string of letterless words in the text and can return to it repeatedly as the story unfolds. Colson's lawyer friend keen on puzzle solving mulls it over and using a combination of intuition, logic, and a lot of luck remarkably comes up with the actual sentence and identifies the name of a key player in the mystery.
|The Crown & Anchor and Harbor View house in Dell Quay|
Templeton was an explorer and his past life in South Africa coupled with the discovery of a single raw diamond on the yacht will lead Colson to a dark motive and a web of past criminal activity. I thought the reveal of the murderer was a delightful surprise. Never saw it coming and it seems to be something of an original rule breaking coup. I've never encountered this twist in any detective novel I've read to date. So hats off to Canon Whitechurch for this clever and engaging debut.
THINGS I LEARNED: The geography was so specific in describing an estuary that Templeton's man navigated that I thought perhaps all the towns mentioned were real. They weren't. But I looked up those I knew were real and followed the course of the yacht as described by Whitechurch. It lead me to the small town of Dell Quay not far form Chichester which just happens to have a famous cathedral. I think that this is exactly the area that Whitechurch set his story. It certainly fits in with all the descriptions and definitely follows the sailing route of Templeton's hired yacht, Firefly.