I've read a couple of books by Clifford Witting, which I'd rank as very competent Golden Age stories, towards the top end of the second division. And now I've devoured Midsummer Murder, his second novel, which I found extremely enjoyable. It's a story about a series of sniper killings in a small town, and it comes complete with map of the crime scene and an ironic reference to the Detection Club in the very last sentence.
Witting was a witty writer, and occasionally he overdoes the facetiousness. There's also a bit too much authorial intervention for modern tastes (although that amusing final sentence makes up for it, in my opinion). But I'd say that he is a writer whose work is likely to appeal to anyone who is a fan of George Bellairs. And on the basis of what I've read, I'd add that he's the superior crime novelist. Indeed, twenty years after his jokey reference to the Detection Club, he was elected to become a member.
The story begins, I was pleased to note, on my birthday, in July, in the tranquil setting of Paulsfield, soon to be tranquil no more. A workman is shot while cleaning a statue in the town square, an extraordinary crime which is apparently motiveless. For a long time I wondered if we were looking at a riff on The ABC Murders. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that this is not a book of that kind, and although (I choose my words with care) some readers will quibble about the slenderness of the connecting link between the deaths that plague Paulsfield, that didn't spoil my enjoyment.
Indeed, a great pleasure of this book is the characterisation, which is consistently amusing and appealing. Among the cast is a widow whose voluminous card index system contains masses of information about the local inhabitants. Inspector Charlton and Sergeant Martin make a likeable investigating duo, and although the book is perhaps a little longer than it needed to be, it held my interest from start to finish. Recommended.