The Rev Dodd
(creator: John Bude)

The Cornish Coast Murder

The Rev Dodd (we are never told his Christian name) was the rotund and little but "extremely affable" bachelor Vicar of St Michael's-on-the-Cliff at Boscowan in Cornwall. He and his oldest friend, the local agnostic Doctor, shared "a common lust for crime stories" much helped by his "very acute observation". Viewing the world through his gold-rimmed glasses, he was "by no means a fool in practical and business matters".

John Bude was the pseudonym of Ernest Carpenter Elmore (1901 - 1957), who was born in Maidstone, Kent. He attended Mill Hill School, and became a games master at St Christopher School, Letchworth, where he developed an interest in dramatics, later becoming a stage manager, producer and director. He wrote thirty crime novels, most of which are now rare and highly collectable, as well as other books. He was a co-founder of the Crime Writers' Association. He was married with two children.

The Cornish Coast Murder (1935)
The Cornish Coast Murder introduces us to the Reverend Dodd, Vicar of the quiet Cornish village of Boscawen, who likes to spend his evenings reading detective stories by the fireside - but
his peace is shattered one stormy night when Julius Tregarthan, a secretive and ill-tempered magistrate, is found at his house in Boscawen with a bullet through his head. Dodd and his friend the local Doctor are surprisingly invited by the local police inspector to help him investigate the scene of the crime as "I dare say you can give me a little local information". Dodd, who was "filled with an ardent glow of curiosity and interest" was happy to oblige. Luckily for the inspector, he wasn't burdened with too many (if any) parish duties, and was keen to put his intuition and keen understanding of the criminal mind to the test!

The police inspector seems none too bright when he says things like, "It looks to me as if we're up against a first class mystery", "The whole business looks intelligent to my way of thinking - damn carefully thought out" and "We're up against a very tricky problem." But it is the local police constable, characteristically called Grouch, who "delivered himself of an oracle. 'It's to my mind, sir, that there's more in this case than meets the eyes.' " He subsequently added, "It looks black, sir. Very black. That's my humble opinion, anyhow."

Meanwhile "the Inspector whistled. He couldn't see the wood for the trees" as he had three suspects who all had a motive for the murder so "the puzzle was assuming gargantuan proportions". So off he goes again to ask Dodd for help: "A good hammer-and-tongs argument is just what I need at this point in my investigations - so go ahead, sir, please." It is hard to believe that police inspectors ever used to speak like this, even in the early 1930s. But Dodd is up to the task and, by experiments with twine, establishes just where the shots had been fired from. "I believe you've hit on a valuable clue, sir," the Inspector tells him. " Can't think why the idea didn't occur to me." In the end, the Inspector even agrees not to question suspects for a couple more hours so that Dodd can sit in his arm-chair and work things out. After that, it comes as no surprise that he agrees to Dodd's request that it is Dodd who should first confront the murderer.

The plot takes quite a time to unwind as there is a great deal of conversation and speculation, with long lists of facts and questions, and not much action. The period Cornish setting is well described but it all peters out in the end with a long and rather boring confession. As for Dodd himself, by the end he realised that "Murder was all right in books and plays, but in real life it was a sorrowful, suffering business. Never again did he want to find himself caught up in the sordid realities of a murder case." It is one of the few occasions when a gleam of reality breaks through.

However, Dodd's agnostic friend the Doctor is now so impressed by him that he tells him, "You seem to be a man of great practical common sense. You have an excellent analytical mind. I hadn't realised before. I'm going to give you a chance to talk to me without my contesting your arguments" and he tells Dodd that he'd be going to church next Sunday!

The most interesting thing about this book is the way it has been highly praised by Amazon readers. To me it all seems very dated and unconvincing and I am surprised that the British Library chose it for republication.



There is little about the author on the internet beyond a Wikipedia entry.




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After being long out of print, the book was reprinted in 2014 in the British Library Crime Classics series.
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