I've developed an increasing interest in Leo Bruce's detective fiction in recent years and after focusing initially on his pre-war Sergeant Beef novels, I've taken a liking to his post-war stories featuring the school teacher Carolus Deene. The blend of humour and quirky scenarios is appealing. My latest Bruce reading is Our Jubilee is Death, published in 1959.
The set-up is very good. Deene is summoned to Suffolk by his cousin Fay, who tells him about the bizarre murder of a detective novelist called Mrs Bomberger, who has been found buried up to her neck in the sand. He has an entertaining interview with a publisher called Agincourt who tells him how awful the victim was, and it's clear that there will be no shortage of suspects. I also appreciated the name-checking of Bruce's own publisher, Peter Davies.
Duly encouraged, I prepared myself for a top-notch read. Unfortunately, however, that the rest of the story didn't really live up to the promise of the situation. I was expecting more to be made of the victim's literary career and although flashes of wit continue to enhance the book, the story itself is rather downbeat - Deene describes it as 'beastly' - and I struggled to care about the culprit or the motive. I suspect that Bruce may have written the novel rather too quickly to invest the storyline with enough pazazz. Nor is the plot one of his best.
Steve Barge is among the people who have reviewed this novel and his reservations about it seem similar to mine. A pity, but Bruce always writes agreeably and I have more Deene novels lined up for future reading.