Calamity in Kent presents a variation on the classic "locked room" mystery. A seemingly inexplicable murder takes place in a cliff railway that has been locked for the night. (A cliff railway is a transport that takes visitors from the top of the cliff down to the beach and back again.) I say seemingly because the actual solution is quite simple.
Jimmy London is recuperating after an illness in the seaside town of Broadgate when he stumbles upon a reporter's dream - a newly discovered body. Being first on the scene (after its discovery) enables Jimmy to search the victim for clues before the police arrive. Another strange man, claiming to be a doctor, arrives, identifies the body, and leaves. Fortunately when the police arrive, they are accompanied by Jimmy's friend, inspector Shelley of Scotland Yard. Rather than being viewed as a suspect, he is invited to assist in the investigation.
Jimmy's efforts are more than a bit amateur and clumsy, but Chance favors the bold. Through, luck, coincidence and sheer tenacity he stumbles on a smuggling ring. Inspector Shelley is remarkably obliging considering Jimmy's profession and his tampering with the evidence. Even the villain of the piece is remarkably civil - though his identity comes as a complete surprise.
Calamity in Kent doesn't quite meet the standard set by the other novels that are British Library Crime Classics. Still, it is an entertaining novel that is a good way to pass the time - provided you are willing to ignore the lack of realism and Jimmy's clumsy investigation.
I received a copy of Calamity in Kent from the publisher and netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
In the peaceful seaside town of Broadgate, an impossible crime occurs. The operator of the cliff railway locks the empty carriage one evening; when he returns to work next morning, a dead body is locked inside – a man who has been stabbed in the back. Jimmy London, a newspaper reporter, is first on the scene. He is quick on the trail for clues – and agrees to pool his knowledge with Inspector Shelley of Scotland Yard, who is holidaying in the area. Mistrustful of the plodding local policeman, Inspector Beech, the two men launch their own investigation into the most baffling locked-room mystery – a case that could reignite Jimmy’s flagging career, but one that exposes him to great danger.