So, the hiatus has been slightly longer than intended, as I’d forgotten quite how labour-intensive newborns can be – not to mention their scornful disregard for the concepts of night and day and having the appetite of some unlucky lovechild of Obelix and Scooby Doo (what, you didn’t see that episode?).
So, blogging will continue to be erratic, and speckled with drool, but I’m easing back in with a short review.
Retired Colonel, Peter Joyce, is a respectable man: a magistrate and a childless widower, he lives a sober, uneventful and somewhat lonely life in St Mary’s until he gets in touch with a distinguished old friend, Lord Colindale, a notable public figure who has a case of concealed rheumatism. Colonel Joyce, it so happens, is the indifferent owner of a set of rarely visited wells with a dubious history of miracle cures. He shows these to Lord Colindale, thus inadvertently setting off a chain of events which lead to “this wretched affair that has taken me from my peaceful country life and made me what I am today: Chairman of a fraudulent company and an accessory to a shameless murder”.
It also turns him – apart from being a man with no concept of spoiler alerts – into an inveterate hand-wringer and Had-I-But-Knowner: a rare male example of the species. Blackmail, cover-ups, murder and some quite shouty Council meetings ensue.
R C Sherriff was a versatile writer, penning the highly successful play “Journey’s End” as well as many screenplays, including “The Dambusters” and “Goodbye Mr Chips”. He wrote several novels as well, the most famous of which was probably the excellent, but decidedly non-murder-filled, “A Fortnight in September”.
“The Wells of St Mary” is not up to that standard but it is, nonetheless, quite enjoyable, with compounding moral dilemmas being heaped in the poor Colonel’s increasingly hair-torn head along with various honours, like coals of fire (or fireworks, in one case).
As a warning, though, there is little in the way of actual detection going on here. The murderer is as obvious as he/she appears to be and eventually just confesses for no very good reason.
Still, the story itself is interesting and well-written enough to be a pleasant read, though not one that will stay with you for long (except possibly for the notion of a nice, cool glass of frogspawn).