She Died Because… by Kenneth Hopkins
Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)
Eighty-one-year-old Doctor of English Letters William Blow looks up from his scholarly endeavors over Samuel Butler’s burlesque polemic Hudibras. Blow realizes that it is 3 o’clock – morning or afternoon, he isn’t quite sure – and decides to ask his housekeeper, Mrs. Solihull, to rustle him up some lunch. He finds her, however, in her room lying on her rug. Lest people get the wrong idea, Blow fetches his seventy-nine-year-old friend, Professor Gideon Manciple. Gideon notes that she has a knife in her back.
Thus a professor of English and a professor of numismatology dodder their way into a murder investigation. Blow’s absent-mindedness and Manciple’s craftiness bedevil the official police including Superintendent Urry, Constable Poindexter, Inspector Elkins and Sergeant Wix. All of the characters are comic in a unique way. English majors and readers who like the erudite mysteries of Michael Innes and Nicholas Blake will find exchanges like this a hoot:
… Blow put in, “I very often hear her singing through the wall.”
“Singing through the wall?”
“Through the wall, singing. Dear me, how pedantic you policemen are.”
The quiet ways, impracticality and unworldliness of the two unlikely sleuths afford them protection against the bad guys. Very funny are their forays into the worlds of burglary, fencing stolen goods, and prostitution. I recommend this comic mystery to readers looking for a break from mayhem and angst or those that need a fix of veddy hardcore Britishness. The books are violence-free, and cruelty-free (unlike Innes), and angst-free (unlike Blake).
Dr. Blow and Professor Manciple starred in two other detective novels Dead Against My Principles (1960) and Body Blow (1962). Hector Kenneth Hopkins was born in 1914 and also wrote as Christopher Adams.