Anyone who enjoys golden age mysteries or who appreciates stories told with Wodehousian flair (or both!) should give James Anderson’s three Inspector Wilkins mysteries a try. The first novel in the series wasn’t published until 1975 but it’s a classic 1930’s style mystery chock-full of all the great golden age devices including the country manor house, locked rooms, secret heirs, imposters, elaborate resolutions and full cast drawing room reveals. The titles of the novels themselves give a fair taste of what’s in store: The Affair of the Blood-Stained Egg Cosy, The Affair of the Mutilated Mink, and The Affair of the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks. Fantastic!
Anderson pokes gentle fun at the genre without ever becoming snide or condescending – more cheeky homage than biting satire.
Various UK references categorize the novels as the Burford or Burford Family Mysteries – which in fact is more accurate as Inspector Wilkins is rarely the point of view character and is often not even present. He is endearing however, and a great foil for the somewhat dim but well intentioned Earl of Burford, his headstrong daughter and all of the other colorful characters that turn up for these three disastrous house parties.
The Inspector does not like these upper class murders at all – they’re so complicated! As he says to the Earl, who wants to sing his praises to the Chief Constable after he resolves the Mutilated Mink case,
“Oh, no, my lord, please don’t do that. The more commendations of that sort I get, the more cases of this sort I’ll be assigned to. And I really don’t like them. I’d much sooner be handling nice simple burglaries and car thefts.”
If you’re in the mood for an enjoyable golden age escape crafted by a light, intelligent hand then give Inspector Wilkins and the Burfords a chance.
Check out the Allison & Busby site for plot descriptions for each book and to see their attractive art deco-esque paperback editions.