Blogger and NetGalley reviewer Susan Riaz gives her opinions on The Murder Room Editor’s Pick for April, The Wooden Overcoat.
The Wooden Overcoat is the first of two novels featuring Clifford Flush, founder of the Asterisk Club – a home for wrongly acquitted murderers. Published in 1951, the story begins with Benjamin Cann, who has suddenly found himself back on the streets of London after being found (to his own surprise) Not Guilty of the murder of his mistress. Approached by Flush, Cann finds himself whisked off to No. 13 Flood Walk, Chelsea, where a delightfully unpleasant group of murderers live in anonymity.
The only thing Cann has to do is make his will in favour of the club, and he will be allowed to join Mr Flush, Mrs Barratt, Colonel Quincey, ‘The Creaker’ and the very friendly Lilli Cluj. However, as there is presently no room free, and he is undecided about whether or not to take up their offer, Flush boards him temporarily next door.
Neighbours to the Asterisk Club, Fan and Peter Hilford and Hugo and Bertha Berko, are two artistic couples currently looking for lodgers for the rat-infested house which they share. However, when their new lodger turns up dead, there is the beginning of a delightfully dark murder mystery/farce. For both Mr Flush and his fellow club members have reason to wish the crime solved quietly, and Fan – who discovers the death – has her own reason to wish to leave the police out of the equation.
Fan, along with her childhood friend Rex, attempt to hide the body – but that is easier said than done . . . Before long, we are almost in Ealing Comedy territory, with a cast of wonderful possible murderers in both houses, and everybody getting into all sorts of bizarre situations.
This is a really delightful novel, with a great cast of characters and London, 1951 as an interesting setting. The next book to feature Clifford Flush was Murder Every Monday, published in 1954. I have to admit that I had not read Pamela Branch before, but I am glad that I have discovered her – this will appeal to everyone who enjoys light-hearted mysteries.
Discover The Murder Room’s collection of classic Pamela Branch mysteries here.