By Debbie Balzotti
I brought home “The Sussex Downs Murder” by John Bude from the library last week. Originally published in 1936, this little British detective novel is just my cup of tea. It falls under the category of “Good, Clean Fun” and you can almost hear the accents as each character appears on the page.
Read this excerpt with a Sussex lilt: “Nay-Oi ‘id in the shadders until she went by to the kilns. Gave me the shudders, it did then, to see’er with that bit o’ body tucked under ‘er arm like a brelly.”
Budge wrote during “the golden age of murder,” which was the time period between the two world wars. He wrote a couple of other detective novels, but this is considered his best so I didn’t waste time on the others.
It begins in a little village with “two streets, two pubs, a couple of chandlers, a forge, an Olde Tea Shoppe, and a bus service.” I’ll save you the trouble of looking up chandler. It was the head of the chandlery in a medieval household, of course. They moved out of the castle and began making their soap and candles in town.
The farmhouse, known as Chalklands, is the center of the action. I love how the British Isles folks name their house. Chalklands is the generational home of brothers John and William Rother, who graze sheep and produce lime from the hill of chalk behind their house.
Brother John goes missing, and his bones and belt buckle soon appear in recently delivered loads of lime around the parish. It’s a gruesome method of disposing of a dead body but interesting information on the making of lime.
The small cast of suspicious characters all have motive and method – and some have madness – enough to commit murder. There are lots of “red herrings” and a maze of clues as Superintendent Meredith unravels the alibis.
I like reading these old British crime novels for a break from modern authors. Check them out (and I mean literally check them out from the library) and see if you enjoy these classic mysteries too.