Coffin Scarcely Used: Flaxborough Chronicles #1 by Colin Watson

Coffin Scarcely Used: Flaxborough Chronicles #1 by Colin Watson

A re-release of Colin Watson’s Flaxborough Chronicles mysteries, first published in 1958 is on the blog today – some consider these classics in the British tradition of murder mysteries. Please read on for my review of

Coffin Scarcely Used

Originally written in the 1950’s, this opportunity to read a ‘classic’ British mystery was not to be missed. Clever word-play, a touch of humor that never ventures into satirical send-ups and plenty of twists that add layers of possibility as you puzzle out the culprit, the story was atmospheric and engrossing. And the sense of multiple stories and agendas behind the scenes in this picturesque English village.

In this story, the market town of Flaxborough is finding a curious decrease in the group of movers and shakers: losing two members in a six month period. The second death just happens to be the neighbor of the first, and the investigation by DI Purbright and DS Love turn up several clues that point to murder. Being a particularly thorough man, Purbright’s digging along several possible trails leads to the uncovering of several ‘not as they appear at first look” situations that lead to a darker, and possibly menacing element in the village. Completely engaging as each new revelation is explored as others surface, the challenge in solving the puzzle before Purbright and Love do is a seriously difficult one – never once leading me to expect the twist at the end.

Yes, the attitudes are slightly dated, but the flow and language, similes and metaphors are poetic and clever: adding to the reader’s visualization and enjoyment. Bringing the sensibilities of a Christie novel, the story is about uncovering a motive and reason, rather than focusing on the more salacious elements of gore, gunshots and fast-paced chases. If you enjoy a British murder mystery, particularly those that harken back to the ‘good old days’, this is a series to put on your shelf.

Coffin Scarcely Used: Flaxborough Chronicles #1 by Colin Watson

Title: Coffin Scarcely Used
Author: Colin Watson
Series: Flaxborough Chronicles #1
Also in this series: Bump in the Night, Hopjoy Was Here, Lonelyheart 4122, Charity Ends at Home, Plaster Sinners
Genre: Contemporary Crime Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Historic Elements, Setting: Britain
Published by: Farrago
ISBN: 9781788420136
Published on: 22 February, 2018 (re-release)
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 210
Rated: four-stars
Get Your Copy: Amazon Barnes&Noble iTunes Kobo
See this Title on Goodreads

In the respectable seaside town of Flaxborough, the equally respectable councillor Harold Carobleat is laid to rest. Cause of death: pneumonia.

But he is scarcely cold in his coffin before Detective Inspector Purbright, affable and annoyingly polite, must turn out again to examine the death of Carobleat’s neighbour, Marcus Gwill, former prop. of the local rag, the Citizen. This time it looks like foul play, unless a surfeit of marshmallows had led the late and rather unlamented Mr Gwill to commit suicide by electrocution. (‘Power without responsibility’, murmurs Purbright.)

How were the dead men connected, both to each other and to a small but select band of other town worthies? Purbright becomes intrigued by a stream of advertisements Gwill was putting in the Citizen, for some very oddly named antique items…

Witty and a little wicked, Colin Watson’s tales offer a mordantly entertaining cast of characters and laugh-out-loud wordplay.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.


2 responses to “Coffin Scarcely Used: Flaxborough Chronicles #1 by Colin Watson

    • These are re-issues – I’d never heard of Watson either, but the writing is so lovely – and the sense of old Christie stories with the developed characters and multiple potential suspects, all played out with his inspector’s rather snarky and sharp observations put me in the mind of watching Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock – there’s an enjoyment that Purbright gets in the midst of a case, seeing and offhandedly dropping his observations about personalities and behaviors that feels very modern and you can almost see his sly smile – much like the Sherlocks drop little nuggets that could be ‘throw away’ comments, but always play into the solution.

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