Funny, delightful 1920s mystery


Historical crime fiction set in the 1920s – Funny and quirky – Very well written – A delightful treat.

Skelton’s Guide to Suitcase Murders | David Stafford

Skelton’s Guide to Suitcase Murders is another absolute treat served up by David Stafford. It’s funny, quirky, clever, entertaining and well written. And based on a true case (legal case, not suitcase. Although in that case (no pun intended) I suppose, yes, it’s also based on a true suitcase, but I digress…).

This eagerly-awaited (by me) follow-up to Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons doesn’t disappoint. Far from it!

Barrister Arthur Skelton and his clerk Edgar are back, and joined by a new assistant, Rose. They’re defending Dr Aziz, who has been accused of murdering his wife; her body was found dismembered and stuffed into a suitcase.

As in Book 1, Arthur is helped by his cousin Alan who, together with his sister Norah, travels across the country joyfully spreading the word of God (while learning how to tango). Alan sends long, rambling letters back to Arthur. The letters are hilarious and it’s fun trying to pinpoint what small detail in Alan’s stories will end up helping Arthur to solve the mystery.

Savor the words

These books aren’t to be read for instant thrills and high-adrenaline excitement. They are to be savored and enjoyed. They’re a plateful of scones, not a shot of sherbet. The pace is deliberately rather slow and the enjoyment is in the details and tangents and rambling conversations.

In the end, most of the details, while somewhat long in the telling, serve a purpose and shed light on the story or characters in some way. Bit by bit the characters and their concerns are revealed. Such as Edgar’s sore, small feet and his attempts to lose weight and find love. Or why Rose has a growing interest in forensic entomology. They also lighten the text, which veers entertainingly from the serious to the silly.

For example, at one point Arthur, Rose and Edgar are discussing the quality of sexual magnetism as personified in Laurence Olivier.

“It possibly develops as a result of childhood neglect. Some people crave love, affection and attention so much that it becomes a single-minded mania that commands the way they move, speak, everything. It often becomes an obsessive need to possess. Essentially, it’s a hunger – conscious or unconscious – not just to be loved , but to be certain that you are loved, to know that you’ve captured the soul, or whatever you want to call it, of another person – or of all other people – and either temporarily or permanently you own it.”

Skelton’s Guide to Suitcase Murders | David Stafford

Edgar asks is it Freud who says this? No, Rose explains. It’s what the brother of one of the girls in Rose’s Girl Guides patrol, who worked backstage at the Birmingham Rep, had said about the actors.

I’ve read that this is part of a three-part series. Let’s hope that that’s not true. If I could look forward to a never-ending series of Skelton’s Guides for many years to come, I’d be a happy woman.

My thanks to Netgalley for giving me a free copy of this book. All my reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, regardless of how I acquire the book.

Skelton’s Guide to Suitcase Murders is available from all major booksellers.

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You might also like: Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons |David Stafford


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