MISS PETULA CLARK
I much enjoyed watching on the moving television her series, The History of Western Civilisation.
I confess, though, that when she started singing in her weak litle voice, I turned down the sound and started playing with the reamer on my pipe smoker’s compendium.
It has always been a great solace to me in times of stress and hardship.
Last week I broke my dibbler while watching Lulu.
MR SEBASTIAN COE
A young man of sallow complexion, who appears to have the ambition to run faster than anyone else in the world.
With a personality like his I think he is very wise.
MISS JILLY COOPER
I do like women with gaps in their front teeth.
They are so damnably useful when it comes to scraping carrots.
The sixth Brigadier book can quickly be seen as a companion to The Brigadier’s Tour (indeed, Tour and Brief Lives would later be released in a combined hardback as The Brigadier’s Collection). It’s the same format, a series of ‘profiles’, of greater or lesser length, only this time not of cricketers but rather personalities: people well-known in 1985.
Of course, the Brigadier being the Brigadier, there are the odd cricketer or two herein, but in keeping with the tone of the book, they are not usually described in reference to their sporting achievements.
It’s a better, frequently funnier book than the last few Brigadier collections, simply because, by expanding the frame of reference, Tinniswood opens out the humour and, increasing the range of subjects, gives himself more room.
I have always cherished the comment above as to Sebastian Coe, and consider it to still be more than apt, notwithstanding the inevitable decline of his best racing speed.
Some of the Brigadier’s comments are delightfully scabrous, some demonstrate a twisted affection for characters, everything is seen through the peculiar, disoriented, not-a-prejudiced-man-but lens of the scion of Witney Scrotum.
Having said that, there’s little I can usefully add.
MR TONY BENN
A very shuperior short of Shoshialisht.


The one that hangs around with Puck and Christer

With merely a pause to comment that, for a second successive week, the Crimes of Passions series offers us another clunky title, let us sweep ourselves back to early-fifties Sweden and the adventures of Christer, Puck and the one we don’t need for anything important. Though let us not ignore the character development of dear, stolid Eje: whilst Puck continues to be the only grown woman in Sweden who wears trousers, her husband now wears glasses.

We are well away from Stockholm again, though the base of operations isn’t named in this episode. That it’s once more in the country is quickly established by the total absence of electric lighting, not to mention the ubiquitous body of water: the animated opening credits feature a cartoon boat being rowed, so it’s not very observant of me to reach the fourth week before recognising that particular trope.

Once more we are at a special occasion, this time the engagement of Head of Murder Christer Wijk to the lovely, blonde Gabriella, and I am not being sarcastic when I call her lovely as the young lady – who is clearly several years younger than we’re used to from our star copper, whose penchant so far has been for the more voluptuous and experienced, thirty-to-fortysomething – is genuinely attractive in a way that, to date, the authentically fifties females of the series have not. Needless to say, Puck and Einar are on their way to celebrate, which should set Christer quaking, given that whenever that pair turn up to a party, bodies start dropping all over the place.

Indeed, they don’t even need to have arrived before the first skeleton is being dug out of the ground in which it’s been buried for twenty years. It belongs to good-time girl Gertrude, and it’s discovered by her orphaned son Bjorn, who is led direct to the whereabouts of his missing mother when Sofie the maid brings tell to him of Aunt Fanny’s ghost story about ‘Odd Gertrud’.

Nevertheless, our carrion crows are soon on the spot, though Puck is busy sneezing over everything, and not showing too much interest in corpses where the blood isn’t still oozing. And Christer’s still more concerned with his lovely fiancee than his professional responsibilities, which he’s really only exercising because the local constable is a bit self-confessedly wet behind the ears.

Where last week was a good old village mystery, this week is a family secrets affair. There are skeletons in more places than under the earth store, they are hanging in every cupboard. Grandfather Frederik has a heart attack, which leads to the finger of suspicion being pointed at him for guilt over Gertrud’s death, especially after he changes his will to benefit both the orphaned Bjorn (‘gypsy’, ‘riffraff’) and daughter-in-law Helene, aunt to the lovely Gabriella, and a bit of an incipient lush. In fact, if anyone’s Christer’s type…

Frederik’s heart attack is followed by death in the early hours, discovered – need I tell you? – by Puck, who can’t sleep after a good shag from Eje, and who’s just in time to alert Christer to the fact that it is not a follow-up heart attack, but rather poison.

All that remains is to set Puck up to be able to dog Christer’s heels without too much grumbling from Eje, which is done by sending him back to the city for a lecture, and we can settle into the now familiar process of gently stirring the waters until they’re sufficiently muddy that nobody has any idea as to what is going on.

It’s very much like last week. Everybody’s lying, the story develops very slowly, the stipulated third body turns up, and it’s all so low key that it’s difficult to assume any urge to solve it before the murderer is actually revealed. No, seriously, I wasn’t bothered about who it turned out to be, though when the final drawing-room revelation was made, the murderer was actually exposed by Christer on his own, with no interjections from Puck (I told you she was thick with a cold).

Long before then, enough suspicion has been stirred in to make it clear that Christer is not going to be marching down the aisle with the lovely Gabriella, and it’s probably a good job too since he’d only invite Puck and Eja to the wedding, and that would just mean even more murders. It seems that the lovely Gabriella has had a lifelong thing for gypsy riffraff Bjorn. Christer takes it manfully, chucking his ring in the all-important body of water and trying to make a half-hearted pass at Puck at the same time (they share the same interests, you see, as the catty Helene has already pointed out).

Fortunately for Christer, he and the catty Helene also share the same interest in shagging, and she’s exactly the type of voluptuous and experienced, thirty-to-fortysomething he usually gets off with, and despite the fact that she’s actually the wife of the murderer and not in the least traumatised by the end of her marriage, he’s more than happy to whisk her off: well, she’s got big tits and is obviously keen on putting it about a bit to make up for lost time.

There’s only two more left and I’ll tune in for both, but it’s fairly easy to see why the Swedes have not yet seen fit to broadcast these stories except to those who, for reasons of their own, have deliberately requested them. They’re neither offensively or expressy bad, just slow and a bit meandering: insubstantial airfill, to adaopt a recently coined phrase. We can but hope that BBC4 has something rather more serious planned for three weeks from tonight.


Pratchett

The first of two Pratchett books due for publication this year, Dragons at Crumbling Castle is a collection of fourteen children’s stories written by Pratchett when he was a young journalist, and published between 1966 and 1973 in the ‘Children’s Circle’ section of the Bucks Free Press. There’s been some minor tinkering with the originals, to make them less dated – references to the Lottery and the Council Tax – but otherwise these stories have not been interefered with since their original publication. This is very much ‘prentice work from Pratchett, and his introduction hints that he would have preferred to keep these buried and forgotten, and on the evidence of the first couple of pages of the title story, that would indeed have been the wisest course.

These are not children’s stories as Pratchett has written them during his professional career: Johnny Maxwell, the nomes, Nation. These are k children’s stories to be read by fathers and grandfathers to toddlers on their laps, until they reach the age of about seven. They lack even the merest scintilla of depth, the lines are only marginally less spaced out than in a board book, and even then are bulked out to 336 pp by applications of large, shouty letters in a fantastical variety of typography and a constant stream of sub-Quentin Blake illustrations.

When Pratchett agreed to have his debut novel, The Carpet People, (written during this period) reissued, he insisted first on a thorough re-write. Frankly, he should not have let these stories out without doing the same, though to be honest I doubt there’s enough in any of them to provide a basis for a better treatment. Not even the two ‘Carpet People’ tales reprinted here, which are the most substantial of the bunch, and the only ones to come anywhere near suggesting the foreshadow of the adult Pratchett peering through the fog.

I shalln’t be keeping this book: in fact, it was listed on e-Bay less than eighteen hours after I bought it. It’s for two classes of people only: Terry Pratchett completists, and the parents, grandparents and uncles of children aged seven and under who still think sitting on laps to have stories read to them is a cool way to spend their time.


How can you not love Sprinkling Tarn? If you were to take away its magnificent setting, beneath the cliffs of Great End, if you would discount its air of peace and remoteness even as it stands so close to one of the busiest thoroughfares in the whole Lake Ditrict, you would still have its picturesque shape, of a broad triangle made distinctive by a long projection across its northern waters that transforms the body of water by providing an idyllic, almost island concealing a near-secret adjunct.
This peninsula immediately invites exploration, the urge to cross its narrow neck and walk out into theTarn itself, on dry land by surrounded by its waters almost on all four sides.
It’s a place for refreshing the spirit, and reminding yourself that there are places where the world is a fine place to be and the heart can simultaneously be relaxed and excited.
Having said all that, it’s a shame to admit that whilst I’ve seen endless photos of Sprinkling Tarn, I’ve only seen it under the sun twice, although the first time was a diversion off the Esk Hause/Sty Head route, just for the sake of seeing it.
I came closer later on a sunny summer Sunday, out walking with a would-be girlfriend who lived and worked in Lancaster. We planned a day out, under my guidance, and my fell of choice was Seathwaite Fell, demonstrating a certain selfishness on my part given that it was on my list of emaining Wainwrights.
It was still a pleasant choice, given the restrictions we had on time, and it was a very enjoyable day. We started from Seathwaite, heading first for Stockley Bridge, then turning up Sty Head. Though I was familiar with the Pass from its Wasdale end, throughout many years and visits, this was the first – and indeed only – time I’d approached from Stockley Bridge. I knew that this end of Sty Head had been scarred tremendously by inconsiderate walkers, but it was an ironic pleasure to see that the National Trust had been at work, as they had at Sour Milk Gill, laying a single, well-graded route, sufficiently positive that the old and ugly short cuts had faded from view.
The walk was very simple. I studied the crags protecting Seathwaite Fell’s broad, flat summit, identifying the breach we’d need to use and, when beneath it, led us uphill the pathless fellside, through the gully and out onto the summit with little more effort needed to reach the top at 1,970′.
My companion was one of only three women I’ve taken to the tops of Lake District fells: it was the most strenuous of those walks, she being already an experienced walker, but the only one that didn’t culminate with a hug and kiss at the cairn.
I said that my pleasure at Sty Head’s intial firmness of path was ironic. This was because, standing on the summit, looking around and up at all the higher fells visible, the Scafell and Great Gable groups, I could not help but see paths in every direction. Famous paths: Esk Hause, Sty Head, Aaron Slack, Windy Gap to Gable, the Breast Route. Each of them visible for miles as painful, broad scratches and slashes, exposed undersoil and stone, blurred lines kicked into these astonishingly potent  fellsides.
It hurt to see these things, to see what our enthusiasm for these high and quiet places had done, our masses tramping and suffing along, destroying everything underfoot. I don’t like the National Trust’s spiral crazy-paving paths and their imposition of an equally disfiguring artificiality on the places we go to escape such things. They’re a lesser evil, that’s all.
Standing there, I wondered if we should be banned from these wilds, barred from kicking them yet further to death, if that was the only true solution.
Thankfully, no such scars affected Sprinkling Tarn and its shores. We passed it by, heading for home over the higher neck of land, higher than the summit, that connects the fell to Great End, but didn’t visit its shores, because we didn’t know each other well enough, because it was already starting to show that we were not on enough of a wavelength to sit or lie besides the cool, charming waters, or find a tuck in the shoreline where we could sprawl out and do nothing, or maybe engage in some enthusiastic lipwork.
Instead, we descended to Sty Head, and from there to Seathwaite, diverting along the Taylorgill Force variation, which was my first visit to that shattered ravine, which is the reason I’ve never approached Sty Head along the main route since.


‘Dear Carter,
‘I cannot stand no more.
‘I have left you for good and all with your son, Nigel. I intend to live with my gentleman friend. He works in the gas showrooms and has excellent prospects.
I can no longer live with you and your selfishness and your drinking in pubs and your sleeping with your mouth open and showing no consideration for myself and Nigel.
‘You never make an effort.
‘I never want to see you again for the rest of my life.
Your dinner is in the oven between two enamel plates on regulo two and there is a junket in the fridge or you can have a slice of Battenburg if you prefer, but don’t cut it too thick as it has to last.
‘I remain,
‘Yours faithfully,
‘Your wife (Pat).’
So. We’re back in the North, with the Brandon family. With Carter Brandon. Time’s passed. Not just the eleven years since Except You’re A Bird but for the family. Five years or so have gone by. It’s still the Sixties, but they’re limping towards the end. They’ve started Swinging, but that’s for down South. The North doesn’t Swing. It never has. It’s not made for Swinging is the North. It doesn’t like enjoyment, or happiness, or fun. That’s not what it’s about.The country’s got no use for the North, it doesn’t want it. Bits of it are dying, shutting off, closing down.
Carter Brandon’s marriage is over, Pat’s walked out on him and taken their son, Nigel (no points for guessing who was going to name him). Carter’s not much mithered about Pat upping and offing, in fact he can’t even remember to tell his Dad and Uncle Mort until several pints have passed at the Whippet.
Carter can’t really be mithered at all. Even if it’s obvious from the second note that there is no gentleman friend and Pat’s simply trying to get his attention, all it means to Carter is that he can carry on boozing and birding, wear industrial boots to work and not turn into a young executive without being nagged.
And the birds are all the more interested in him now Pat’s out of the picture. Not Linda Preston, though. For once she’s not offering it, because she’s going to get married again, this time to Count Jugular, the all-in wrestler and proud homebody. Linda’s going to turn herself into a good, loyal, prissy-arsed wife, like Pat.
And Louis St John’s changed too. After taking home Thelma Thurlow when Carter got too drunk at the Reception, Louis’s gone all strait-laced and disapproving, intent on marriage, disgusted at Carter’s morals, language and boozing.
But first Count Jugular, then Louis St. John and Thelma Thurlow are killed, in car crashes at that notorious accident black spot, Wilson’s Bar.
They were happy, see.
Linda Preston survives, though, determined to be the wife she intended to be. Not that Carter’s going short. There’s plenty of womed from Wagstaffe and Broome’s that are up for a night with him, though it’s never anything special for them. And for a time, he’s taken over by skinny, needle-titted, beaky-nosed Dorothy Fearnley from (aptly) Complaints, until he scares himself off.
But the North is dying. People are dying, industries are closing, popular mine host and ex-Green Howard, Bnert Coleridge, is moving South. Even Wagstaffe and Broome’s closes down, putting everyone on the dole. Mr Brandon’s on the dole alongside Carter, the snuff warehouse having shut. The men stand together in proud solidarity, craftsmen deprived of their craft. Eventually, they give in and find other jobs.
It could all be put back right for Carter, if he wants to take advantage. Pat still loves him, even after she does get a gentleman friend, none other than Mr Macclesfield, for whom she worked in I Didn’t Know You Cared. She moves in with him and his avacado bathroom suite, though there’s nothing like that going on.
But it’s not going to happen. Carter’s more interested in Pat’s best mate and former colleague at Maison Enid’s, Hazel Huskisson, she of the blonde hair, mini-skirts, long lissome legs and mobile caravanette. Hazel’s keeping an eye on Carter for Pat, reporting back what he does. On the other hand, her husband Ken’s spending every weekend house-hunting in London. Carter’s obsessed just as he was with Alison Shirtcliffe, and it’s all there for him. If he makes a move.
But he doesn’t.
Carter’s got a big problem. Well, two, actually. Or three, really. One is the one he’s always had, indecision. Not a Hamlet-like indecision, but instead an urgent desire not to take decisions, not to bring about change.
The next one is Sid Jones. Sid used to be Carter Brandon’s oppo in their National Service days in Germany. Two young men with time on their hands, exploring the mysteries of a strange country that was endlessly romantic in comparison with the emptiness and deprivation of the North.
Sid’s back now, and staying with Carter. But he’s not the booze-guzzling, bird-pulling Sid of yore. For one thing, he’s in gentleman’s fittings and he’s as bald as a coot. He’s clean, neat, a fastidious housekeeper, disappriving of strong drink and strong language, and unable to talk to women. Everyone says he’s a homo, even Daniel: only Carter insists he’s not.
But Carter’s biggest problem is that he’s become a drunk. A mean, swilling soak who’s unable to sleep for body-wracking hangovers. Hairs of the dog that get earlier and stronger every day. The classic alcoholic in classic denial about it.
There are still moments of sanity. Sid Jones persuades him to come away on a holiday in Scarborough: seaside, fresh air, no drinkinhg. Even though Uncle Mort invites himself along, it’s working. Carter even bumps into Pat, staying here with a jealous Mr Macclesfield. They enjoy a gentle, happy day together and Carter presses for another. Then stands her up and goes home.
And then it happens. Carter has one final chance of Hazel, and he decides to take it, turn it into a future he’s badly in need of. He drives over in his blood-red Mini Cooper S. But a dog off its leash runs into the road, he swerves, and crashes. At Wilson’s Bar.
Is this novel solely about Carter Brandon? Is there no parallel story of comparable importance? Well, no, not really. There is a secondary thread, running alongside Carter’s story and forming an undercurrent, but it’s hardly on the same level of intensity and focus.
It’s about Uncle Mort, and his overgrown allotment once more. Uncle Mort has got a canary nesting in one of his bushes, a pair, with eggs. Only they’re not canaries, they’re warblers. To be precise, Mourning Warblers, except that, according to the bird books, they don’t nest in Britain, they only nest in America. Which makes them rare birds, poor sods.
Once the word gets out, the nest becomes a magnet for egg-collectors. The former Wagstaffe and Broome’s men set up a night watch, but they make a piss-poor fist of it. Between boozy sleeps, treachery and Mrs Brandon’s womanly disgust at grown men playing about like kids instead of getting jobs, only one egg survives to hatch into a strange looking chick, nesting in Uncle Mort’s hair, under his cap.
And everyone continues to call it a canary, over Carter’s constant corrections.
Ah yes, Carter. Aye. Well. Mm. Carter’s alive, and his blood-red Mini Cooper S isn’t even a write-off, but Hazel Huskisson is. Ken’s been manking around in London and she needs to take him in hand, so that’s that.
Everyone’s coming to see him in hospital: his mother and father, seperately, Uncle Mort with the surviving eggs which Carter has to incubate, Sid Jones, half his harem. And Pat. Who still loves him and wants him back, despite his total indifference to her. She loves him. And so does Sid Jones.
And something unusual happens. Firstly, Mr Brandon declares, openly and for the first time in his life, that he loves Mrs Brandon, and then Carter not only decides that he wants Pat back, and that he’ll do all the things she wants of him, but when he discovers that she’s not going to come back, says – actually shouts – that he loves her. But it’s all too late.
But not necessarily for Carter. His self-destruction seems unstoppable. His selfishness has driven a wedge between himself and his parents. His best friend wants to make a home both for and with him. But there is Linda Preston.
Good old good-time Linda Preston, always available, always willing. She’s the one who didn’t come to the hospital, not to visit, that is. She stood outside every day, paralysed by memories of her own time there, but she was there for him.
And she’s there for him now. Not for sex, but to take him in hand, straighten him out, begin to calm and cure him. It’s an old-fashioned courtship, slow and gentle. Easy-paced and, above all, dry. No sex before a honeymoon night, if Carter wants to marry her.
It would work. Two unassuming, unambitious people, content to let the day come, comfortable in each poher. Linda also resolves the Sid Jones problem, setting himself up with awkward, unprepossessing, curler-haired Connie Watkinson, to whom he proposes. After all, she’ll let him take nude photos of her, provided she can keep her clothes on.
Carter even decides to instruct Solicitors.
And a Policeman knocks on the door with news. There’s been another crash at that well-known accident black spot, Wilson’s Bar. Mr Macclesfield is dead. So too is his passenger, Nigel, Carter and Pat’s son.
Nothing is to be what it was going to be. A night of sex, in lieu of that forever postponed honeymoon, and then Carter and Pat are back together. Till death them do part.
There is, of course, a happy ending, happy in the terms that the Brandons world sets for itself. After Bert Coleridge went south, the new Landlord of the Whippet started making changes, altering the pub to attract a new, young with-it, Swinging clientele. Uncle Mort got banned for refusing to take his cap off.
But Sid Jones and Connie Watkinson’s reception is at the Whippet, and everyone’s crowded in. Only, when Uncle Mort takes his cap off, his canary flies straight into the heart of the disco equipment, and when they tried to extract it, a fire started, and the pub burned down to the ground.
Unfortunately, the poor canary succumbed to the smoke.
Canary? “Warbler,” roared Carter Brandon, “Call it a Warbler.”
It had been more than a decade since the last Brandon family book, a decade in which Peter Tinniswood had been refining his writing towards shorter and shorter works. There had been nothing to equal the density, intensity and especially the delightfully morbid style of his earliest novels. Call it a Canary stood in danger of being that most risky of endeavours, the self-pastiche.
Indeed, many of my friends and fellow Tinniswood fans at that time thought he’d succumbed. I, being less analytical than I am now, was simply glad to be amongst old pals, and rated the book accordingly. Now, I’m less sure.
Even at the time, I could see that Call it a Canary was a much darker book, darker for its blackness being on the surface. In the Eighties, I saw the overt decay – the deaths, the closures, the demolitions – as a comic element, but now I see something more. At the heart of this book is the disintegration of its central character, Carter Brandon. Not an undercurrent, half-hidden by a superficial, almost pantomime morbidity, it is the entirety of the story.
Carter and Pat’s separation is the symbol of the divide that widens in this book, the gulf between men and women, their differing, and wholly incompatible thoughts, feelings, desires and priorities. It’s noticeable that Mrs Brandon is alone in he generation of women to stand up for their viewpoint:  except for a cameo from Mrs Partington at the hospital, all the other women are much younger, and are sexual, bringing them momentarily closer to the men’s world.
Nor are there the jokes, not in the same profusion, not in the way that has characterised Tinniswood even through the Brigadier books. Even Daniel, present in Carter’s head from an incredibly early stage, isn’t what he once was. His voice is antipathetic to Carter almost from the off, carping and criticising and offering little or no encouragement to Carter.
This more than anything sets Call it a Canary apart from its predecessors. Even if you take Daniel only to be a kind of superego, Carter cloaking his impulses towards relief in a highly visible and totally irresponsible form, the fact that even his other self is tearing him down constantly deepens the gloom of this book past the point where the laughter has sufficient air with which to breathe.
I used to love Douglas Adams’ Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, but it’s a plain fact that, after the original two radio series, the books got progressively, exponentially worse. The last of them, Mostly Harmless, cannot disguise from the least critical eye that it is the work of a writer who has grown to hate his characters, who felt trapped by them, and who was determined to ensure that he could never ever be forced to write about them again.
Though it is nowhere so extreme, Call it a Canary is in the same mould, even if only subconciously. Tinniswood is burning boats here, breaking down the world he had constructed in a way that could not be put back together again. Towards the end of his life, there were apparently announcements   that he was writing another Brandon family novel. I am glad it never materialised.
Some of the Brandons, most notably Uncle Mort and Carter, would reappear, on television, radio and in print. But there would never be a real book again, not with any grounding, any weight.
A number of Tinniswood’s obituaries spoke of his bitterness in later life that he had spread himself too thin, accepted too many commissions too eagerly, had failed to give himself the time to produce his best work. Despite its good aspects, Call it a Canary stands testament that he was not merely being self-deprecating.


Puck Ekstedt Bure

The first thing that has to be said is that this week’s helping of the Swedish equivalent of Midsomer Murders has a really stupid and pointless title. No More Murders? Unless there’s a specific link to a fundamental aspect of the story, you might as well call every crime-story by that title since it’s purpose is to ensure that there are no more murders by the particular miscreant.

That aside, the third instalment of the Adventures of Puck and Christer was much of a muchness with its two predecessors, unhurried, unlurid, untroubling. Though we started with a murder in Stockholm, discovered by someone who was not Puck Ekstedt – I’m sorry, Puck Bure, for she and the faithful Brian Cant look-alike, Einer ‘Eje’ Bure, are now lawfully wedded and bound for a three week holiday in Eje’s home town of Skoga – the action is to take place wholly in the sleepy, small-town environment of (you’re bound to guess this) Skoga.

The episode takes its sweet time to get to the dead body. Eje’s brought Puck home for something of a honeymoon, and all the neighbours are nosing round to check out the newcomer. The atmosphere’s idyllic, with the only shadow being cast by the round-headed and glowering Margit Holt, who lives opposite (some Fifties hairstyles were true atrocities). Indeed, the only problem to begin with is Thotmes the Third, Puck’s father’s cat, who, despite being a housecat, takes every open door or window he can find as the chance to have it away on his paws.

So, instead of Puck,this time we have Eje, in pursuit of Thotmes, finding on the lawn the body of a young man, wearing the first quiff in Sweden, not to mention a paperknife between his shoulder-blades.

It’s not the kind of murder that ought to attract the attention of Christer Wijk, head of Stockholm’s murder squad, but here he is anyway, pursuing the murder of the forty-something good-time girl of Stockholm (her neighbour, who discovered the body whilst trying to borrow some coffee, discretely and genteely lets the Police know that the late Britt Anderssen was a complete lush and the next best thing to a whore: good job the neighbour liked her, eh?). Needless to say, there are connections between Britt and Quiff-boy, who bears the splendidly Swedish name of Tommy Holt.

Two things now ensue. The first is that, in true small-town style whenever a murder takes place, everybody that you meet is lying about something, concealing secrets about their life that they don’t want to come out but which, once Puck and Christer have teased eveything out, will all turn out to relate to the late Tommy. The second is that you can’t keep Puck away from Christer’s side, to the slow and genial frustration of Eje, who really wanted just to relax and fuck his wife’s brains out every night for three weeks.

I tell you, if we don’t get a serious argument and possible breach between Eje and Puck (resolved, naturally) over her determination to hang off every murder Christer investigates bedore this series is over, there will be a seriously unrealistic ignoring of human nature. Though, of course, if we do get this inevitable occurence, it will also be a cliche. Sometimes you can’t win, eh?

Gradually it all comes out. The local glamour girl – platinum blonde, two-piece swimsuits, was shagging Tommy even though he had o be at least twenty years younger than her, has a genuinely beautfiful singing voice – is arrested on suspicion but released when someone tries to throw Tommy’s green blazer – and Thotmes – into the lake. Tommy, who is Colonel Holt’s illegitimate son by the aforementioned Britt (but isn’t Britt’s son as the denouement carefully explains), got thrown out of the family for supposedly shagging his sweet-seventeen half-sister Agneta, though all he was doing was warning her that mother Margit was about to find her shagging her real boyfriend, the handyman (I bet he was! I bet he was! Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, Say No More!).

In the end it’s the already familiar scene where Christer’s got the whole thing worked out and is about to arrest someone who is admitting it, and she wades in to spot the real killer, though on this occasion it’s not acute psychlogical perception wot does it, but rather a plateful of handy clues served up by the promiscuous little Agneta. And, as foreshadowed by her unsmiling appearance  eighty minutes ago, it’s Margit Holt, who has killed two people and tried to murder a third based on a completely wrong-from-start-to-finish interpretation of what was going on. But these are Crimes of ‘Passion’, right?

Though there are plenty of reasons not to do so, I do still like this series enough to keep watching without totally snarking it. The atmosphere, the sensation of the Fifties – a peculiarly in-between decade, I’m growing to recognise – is perfect without being conspicuous and I love how everything is correctly new and lovingly maintained in keeping ith the mores of the time. As with Sandman Mystery Theatre, I’m finding myself seeing the ongoing progression of the triangle between Christer, Puck and the stodgy, load-bearing Eje – who really is getting the shitty end of the stick – as to main point of interest, with the crimes themselves really pegs to keep things going.

As for the Midsomer Murders comparison, it’s unfair to charge that whenI’ve never seen more than about ten consecutive minutes of a Midsomer Murders episode in my life, but that’s the feel I get off this, and especially this particular episode. Why I should be willing to watch Crimes of Passion when I’d run a mile from the nearest English equivalent is something I’ve yet to explain to myself.


I am sure there was something else we celebrated, too.
What the devil was it?
Ah, yes.
I remember.
It comes back to me now. It was the visit of the Pope to Witney Scrotum.
I confess that when it was first mooted I had “my doubts.”
Would it bring on another of Prodger the Poacher’s strange “turns” and set him off once more exposing himself in the mobile library?
Would the sight of all those handsome, single, unmarried, bachelor priests be “too much” for Miss Roebuck of the dog biscuit shop?
What would be the reaction of that ranting, raving vitriol-tongued preacher, Doctor Jones-Jones-Ontong-Wooller in his tin hut chapel of the Church of the Third Wicket Down Redemption?
One thing was absolutely and totally assured – the Commodore was incensed.
“What do we want with a gang of Wops in the village!” he thundered.
I explained as patiently as I could that the Holy Father was of Polish extraction.
The Commodore glared at me silently for a moment, grinding at the stem of his self-lighting bulldog pipe.
And then he said: “That is as maybe. But I will wager you one silver half crown that the blighter’s almost certain to be a bloody Catholic.”
Ok, what is there to say about this? It’s another Brigadier book, the fourth in succession, the fifth in three years. It’s funny, inventive, dense with jokes, puns and allusions. The Brigadier and his lady wife are back home and a new cricket season is about to begin. We are back to the tales of far-fetched cricketing times and places. But, as may be expected, there is nothing to say about this book that hasn’t already been said about its predecessors
Tinniswood progresses his world a little. There are many opportunities for the Brigadier to call on his neighbour, chum and fellow devotee of the ‘summer game’, dear old “Bruce” Woodcock of The Times. (The joke here being, as I have just had to look up, that the well-known Times Cricket Correspondent was John Woodcock, whilst Bruce Woodcock was a boxer).
And among the denizens of Witney Scrotum, there is a greate emphasis upon the amatory intentions of Miss Roebuck of the dog biscuit shop towards Somerset medium pace bowler, Colin Dredge.
I saw the book one Saturday afternoon in London, having travelled down to attend the bi-monthly Westminster ComicsMart and see some of my friends in fandom. I bought it of course, read it on the train back to Manchester, thoroughly enjoyed it.
But my immediate reaction was unease at yet another Brigadier book, turned out so soon after the last one. Even then, I was dismayed somewhat at the speed with which this part of the canon was expanding. It made it feel as if what Tinniswood was writing was too easy. I don’t know the level of effort that actually went into writing these books: the free-wheeling flow from one idea to another was, in all likelihood, nothing like as easy to attain as it was to write.
But the point was that the profusion, allied to that sense of anarchy as to the Brigadier’s thought-processes which made every tale so wholly unpredictable, made the works feel as if they were easy, first draft work that just came naturally.
I liked The Brigadier in Season, laughed at it then, laugh at it now. But I wanted something more from Tinniswood. Something of more substance.
The jackets of these last three books had each indicated that Tinniswood was writing another Brandon family novel. Thankfully, that would come next.