Murder from the Newsdesk is a purchase-for-free 69-page novella from Amazon. Author Peter Bartram presents seven stories which I believe fall into the category of “cozy” mysteries. There is no sexual language, which is good because there are no sexual situations. There is no violence. Throughout each of the stories, there is humor, but it is very dated. The collection was published in April 2016, but the jokes come from the 60s. Example: “What did Cinderella say when the developers mislaid her photos?” Answer: “Some day my prints will come.” All humor in the collection follows this vein. Another time reference internal to stories is “The Dave Clark Five were belting out Glad All Over on the juke box.”
Murder from the Newsdesk might frustrate US readers with British vocabulary that I believe is outdated. What is worse than unfamiliar slang? Answer: Unfamiliar slang that is outdated. Examples: In the field of gambling and horse racing, what are “gee-gees?” Outside the world of horse racing, what are “nobble, scarpered, and shufty?” A quick check of the Kindle dictionary gave me the meaning of two of the four terms, but not the remaining two. I am also unfamiliar with what a Bob, a Pence, and a Pound are worth. I don’t even know if they are in use or whether the Euro either replaced or is used as a tandem currency for financial transactions.
The Mystery of the African charity ***** An appropriately named villain, Septimus Darke, kicks off this mystery. Colin Crampton, the crime reporter for the Evening Chronicle, knew the name and that cursory knowledge would have been the end of it except for a favor he had promised a fellow employee at the newspaper morgue, Freda. Lennie Stapleton, the husband of Connie, an old friend of Freda, had died recently. A nephew, Denzil, had been bothering Connie about Lennie’s old clothes. Would she donate them to a charity Denzil was running? Connie thought something was wrong and was suspicious about Denzil and his request. She had gone to the police, but they ignored her. Freda had volunteered the help of the newspaper’s crime reporter to dig into Denzil’s activities. Not all charities come with charitable intentions.
The Mystery of the Two Suitcases ***** This story suggests an answer to the question “How can I give a receive an expensive gift from my lover without my husband knowing?” A solution the wife came up with did not work out well. Why? The answer, in this case, is unusual. I have no idea what “clears off in high dudgeon” means. (Location 418).
The Mystery of the Single Red Sock ***** Colin wanted to buy a bottle of gin from his favorite retailer and pick up hints of crimes to come from the elderly owner. There are hints that he wanted more than gin; his favorite retailer was only a favorite of Colin’s; most people wanting alcohol went somewhere else. It was unfortunate that the robber picked Colin’s shopping time to rob the owner. It was unfortunate for the robber because the infrequently visited shop had almost no money to hand over. It was unfortunate for Colin as he was minorly injured in a fight with the thief. Colin felt that his editor’s next assignment, to interview a woman who had reported the theft of a red sock one day and a blue sock the following day, was a punishment for Colin achieving fame and a front-page story about the burglary. Bartram ties up three elements and three crimes in this short story.
The Mystery at the Beauregard Hotel ***** Two couples checked into the Beauregard Hotel. The names of each pair were probably false. In the dining room for the evening meal, Mrs. Green made overt gestures to Mr. Brown, suggesting a later meeting. The following morning Mrs. Green and Mr. Brown had breakfast together before leaving the hotel together. The other couple, Mr. Green and Mrs. Brown, had disappeared and there was a bloodstain on the carpet in their room. Had a double murder occurred? Mrs. Gribble, Colin’s landlady, wanted him to check the situation out. The police had laughed at Mrs. Gribble’s account. My vocabulary mystery for this story is the meaning of “farrago?” (location 677). US readers also might puzzle over the phrase “eating their tea.”
The Mystery of the Precious Princess ***** Princess is a greyhound whose owner, Fred Dubbins, will run her in an upcoming race. Princess will be listed as a favorite. Fred has noticed that no favorite has won in the past three competitions and calls Colin to discuss the problems that Fred might encounter with possible criminal involvement. Three top owners make up the possibilities for dog race fixing. One mystery is, “Who is cheating?” But there is a better mystery, “How is the guilty party doing it?”
The Mystery of the Note on the Beach ***** A scam artist specializing in quick return investment schemes has disappeared into the Channel, the probable death was possibly a suicide. That is what the scammer wants everyone to believe. A pile of his clothing was found by the brother of Colin’s landlady, so he thought it logical to go to Colin rather than the police. Colin suspected, even knew that there was no suicide. Colin accompanied the brother to the pile of clothing. Colin stumbled across convincing evidence just in time.
The Mystery of the Phantom Santa ***** Colin met a small boy practicing football at a public park. Colin was there hoping for a visit from a muse telling him what to write for his newspaper on Christmas Eve. The boy suggested a story about Santa Claus or Father Christmas. The boy had seen Santa behind his house every night for three nights. Santa appeared to be taking, not leaving presents. The boy’s mother, Victoria, appeared to take her son shopping and found out the stories her son had been telling Colin. Victoria was visibly upset and denied the stories vigorously. She seemed to be far more emotional in her disagreements with her son than needed. On a whim, Colin followed the pair on their shopping trip. Were the mother and son buying or selling?
I gave this collection four Amazon stars because it kept my interest despite frequent appearances of British English slang, both old and modern. I liked the author’s humor even though it dangerously flirted with puns, deemed by many to be humor of the lowest form. This collection is a good “clean” read for a lazy weekend.