Sunday, 15 March 2009

Broomsticks Over Flaxborough - Colin Watson

Another superb outing for Inspector Purbright and the constabulary of Flaxborough. As ever this is sharply writing, well plotted, and overflowing with wonderful characters. It also takes a sideswipe of some ferocity at the absurdities of advertising – with a dry wit worthy of Jack Trevor Story.

This novel is also distinguished by a more than accurate portrayal of pagans. Granted, the novel centres on those who abuse paganism for their own ends, but it does point out the distinction between this minority (a minority you will find in any social group or community) and those whose beliefs are genuine. All too often, authors get this so badly wrong, perhaps doing their research by reading the worst end of the tabloid press, that it is a real relief to see it done correctly.

In all other respects, this novel pleases as well. Watson is a superb writer. Unpretentious, witty, a great observer of ordinary people, and with the skill to portray small town life with a joyous turn of phrase. As an entertainment, it is perfect. As a social commentary, it is equally perfect, simply because it does not try to be one.

If you enjoy quirky and well-written mysteries you probably already have some (if not all) of Colin Watson’s books on your shelves. For those that have not yet discovered his work (and sadly you’ll have to go hunting in second-hand bookshops) I envy you for the wonder of tasting such books for the first time.