The British Library is busy publishing a series of “forgotten classics” of crime, and I must say they’re doing it rather nicely. The books are printed on good quality paper with a clear typeface, and the two John Bude’s recently released both have 1930’s travel posters on the cover. I’d never heard of John Bude, but Martin Edwards mentioned him on his blog. Apparently Bude was a co-founder of the Crime Writers’ Association, and wrote thirty crime novels before his death in 1957.
Bude has been compared to Freeman Wills Crofts, and this feels like a fair comparison. There’s a gradual and logical progression, with each new clue building on the last, until suddenly it all makes sense to the investigator – in this case Inspector Meredith, who finds a body at a lonely roadside garage where he has stopped to refuel. Bude gives a realistic-feeling depiction of small-town Cumbrian life (though I wish that petrol was still one and three per gallon) but I found it difficult to engage emotionally with any of the characters. As a result, the story never quite came to life for me. Perhaps it will appeal more to the masculine mind, with the detailed exploration of some of the clues. For long-term survival, crime fiction needs a strong protagonist, and Inspector Meredith, for all his skill, is too workaday a character to outlive his creator.