This is the latest in a successful series that follows Professor Swanton Morley as he travels England in the 1930s writing guides to different counties.
So what attracted me? Well for a start when has an amateur sleuth ever been named after the village in Norfolk where you grew up?
The cover picture is evocative and the plot seemed good.
Hitler, Mussolini and Pope Paul V are all making names for themselves. The People’s Professor Swanton Morley’s mission to write a guidebook to every county in England has brought him to Sussex, amidst the chaos of Lewes Bonfire Night. After the night’s revelries, when Morley’s assistant Stephen Sefton goes for a steadying dip in the local Lido, he finds he’s not alone in the water. A woman has drowned. Is it some drunken caper gone horribly awry, or could it be something far more sinister?
We join Professor Morley and his beautiful (if slightly annoying) daughter Miriam as they set off in their Lagonda car towards the South Downs.
I am not sure if the first in the series made more of Stephen Sefton’s past, but he is the narrator who has joined this odd father and daughter after surviving the Spanish Civil War – only physically as he retains the mental scars. But Sefton has the ability to take great notes and seemingly bring all the Professor’s musings on their travels together into books that sell so well Morley now has a country estate back in Norfolk.
It’s an easy read with interesting snippets about the places and customs of the area, including a whole section on the making of Brighton Rock! The death is a feature that only seems to develop later in the plot as we gather new characters and seemingly gain new suspects for the young woman who was found dead.
As I live in Sussex I found it interesting for how it was depicted back in the 1930s and the author has put a few interesting photos and illustrations to add to some chapters which is a nice touch.
There is of course no limit to the amount of stories you can gain from the adventures of Professor Swanton Morley. Already there are four in this County Guide series (The Norfolk Mystery, Death in Devon, Westmorland Alone and Essex Poison) After all there are lots of counties in England and at times the Professor also muses on the fact he’d like to travel to Scotland and Wales too! The author has also written other novels including the Mobile Library series so has a talent for spotting a likely source of crime situations with which to exploit his characters.
It sends up the golden age of crime in some ways and its light touch and humour makes for some easy reading.
Enjoyed it as a personal read and am sure book clubs will love them as a collection to dip into especially if it covers the area where you live!
Philipa Coughlan 3/4*
The Sussex Murder by Ian Sansom
978-0-00-820738-0 Harper Collins 4th Estate Paperback Jan 2020