by Ellis Peters
When Helmut Schauffler is discovered with a cracked skull face down in a pool of water, many Comerford residents believe the deed couldn’t have happened to a better person.
A German displaced person, Schauffler was often in fights but always claimed to be the victim — of misunderstanding or anti-German sentiment.
Police Sergeant George Felse soon discovers that while clues are sparse, there is no lack of suspects.
Farm wife Gerd Hollins is herself a German, but she’s also Jewish and lost her entire family in the Holocaust. Teacher Chad Wedderburn and shepherd Jim Tugg are veterans of World War II. Wedderburn is much decorated but left his military service with a hatred of war. Tugg is outspoken about his resentment of Schauffler’s life in England when so many of Tugg’s war comrades never came home.
Felse observes that Schauffler’s murder had “by whatever agency . . . (created) a crack in the known world, (that) was growing, was letting in the slow, patient, feeling fingers of chaos.” Neighbors are looking sideways at neighbors and wondering. The peace and trust of the community have been damaged.
Felse also faces another problem: his 14-year-old son Dominic discovered the body and has an intense interest in the progress of the investigation. So much so, that he and his friend, tomboy Pussy Hart, are running their own investigation. Felse fears that Dom’s involvement is psychologically unhealthy and potentially dangerous.
Set in 1952, this book and its sequels are far from 12th century Cadfael Chronicles that Peters is best known for. But just as Brother Cadfael, the Benedictine monk who investigates the crimes of his times, must rely on observation and reasoning rather than technology to solve his mysteries, so must George and Dominic Felse in their investigations into Schauffler’s death.
Where most mysteries focus on the puzzle of “who dunnit,” Peters does a wonderful job of examining the effect of a murder on a community. She sensitively describes the relationship between George Felse, his wife Binty and Dom, who is on the cusp of adulthood, whether his protective parents are ready for it or not. The many characters in this book are skillfully drawn and wonderfully appealing.
This book is followed by these, which also feature George Felse:
- DEATH AND THE JOYFUL WOMAN (Book 2); winner of a 1963 Edgar Award
- FLIGHT OF A WITCH (Book 3)
- A NICE DERANGEMENT OF EPITAPHS (Book 4)
- THE PIPER ON THE MOUNTAIN (Book 5)
- BLACK IS THE COLOUR OF MY TRUE LOVE’S HEART (Book 6)
- THE GRASS WIDOW’S TALE (Book 7)
- THE HOUSE OF GREEN TURF (Book 8)
- MOURNING RAGA (Book 9)
- THE KNOCKER ON DEATH’S DOOR (Book 10)
- DEATH TO THE LANDLORDS (Book 11)
- CITY OF GOLD AND SHADOWS (Book 12)
- RAINBOW’S END (Book 13)
The Author: Ellis Peters (1913 – 1995)
Ellis Peters is the pseudonym of Edith Mary Pargeter, OBE, BEM. While she is noted for medieval detective series, The Cadfael Chronicles, she also wrote modern mysteries such as the Felse Investigations series.