The second week of my year-long challenge to read a country crime book a week has me back with Ann Granger for the second in her series of Campbell and Carter mysteries, “Rack, Ruin and Murder”. Much better than its predecessor, and the author has created a comic gem in her character of Monty Bickerstaffe (of Bickerstaffe’s Boiled Puddings), who is slowly decaying, along with the house he can no longer afford to maintain. When he goes out one morning to buy a bottle of whisky, and comes back to find a corpse seated in his usual chair, he is incensed (don’t you just hate it when that happens?) The slow uncovering of facts, and the relationship between Monty and his neighbours, progresses to a logical conclusion, with not a clue out of place. There is a sense of remorseless logic, and all the loose ends are neatly tidied away.
I’m still struggling to warm to either Campbell or Carter however. Monty lives and breathes , and could warrant an entire series of him grumpily finding corpses in annoying places, but if I replaced Jess Campbell with Ian Rankin’s Siobhan Clarke, would anyone notice? For me, the best detective is the one that’s irreplaceable (e.g. Reg Hill’s Andy Dalziel). Oh well, you can’t have everything. Good plot, good pacing, an unforgettable character. 75% right is better than most.