This week I felt the need for sunshine, so I’ve been reading Tim Heald’s “Death on the Pueblo”, the last of the Simon Bognor series, written in 2012. Heald died in November, and while I hadn’t read his later work, it saddens me that there will be no more.
This is the classic world of “snobbery with violence”, in Colin Watson’s phrase. Heald writes – wrote – hard to remember the past tense – guides to a certain class that he describes as “not quite top drawer” but still higher up the filing cabinet than the majority, a class with access to the corridors of power. Here, the newly knighted Sir Simon has been called to investigate the disappearance of a former East End villain, Jimmy Trubshawe, living the life of Riley in Spain, who has apparently been poisoned. Simon and his wife Monica, and trusty sidekick Contractor, head off to the countryside near Salamanca to investigate.
There’s an elegiac tone to this, a realisation that the world has changed and crime fiction with it. I find Heald amusing, but at the same time, this now reads like a requiem for a way of life that is vanishing, that of the upper-class amateur investigator. Monica describes Bognor as “an old cosy. An elderly dog with its hair falling out”, which may well be true, but like an old dog, it’s sad to see an empty basket.