Murder by Milk Bottle (A Constable Twitten Mystery)

Written by Lynne Truss
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Three murder victims over the three-day August Bank Holiday in 1957 Brighton. Each coshed with a milk bottle, then stabbed to death with shards of the broken glass. Not to be ignored: a cow stampede and ice cream sabotaged with broken glass, a gathering of high-level London gangsters, the grand opening of the new West Pier milk bar highlighted by the Brighton Evening Argus Knickerbocker Glories ice cream competition, and a bogus barbers’ contest.

Three Brighton police in the thick of things: astute, if easily manipulated and delightfully dense at times Constable Peregrine Twitten; “always on the back foot” Sgt. Jim Brunswick; and ice cream aficionado and competition judge Inspector Geof Steine. Joining them is police station charlady and leader of organized crime Palmeira Groynes.

The trio—and Mrs. Groynes—are no strangers to crime. In the two previous Constable Twitten mysteries, they have been involved in a series of shootings—on the railway, in the theatre, on the hippodrome stage–plus knife and sword-wielding incidents. In particular, they’re known for solving the case of the Middle Street Massacre.

Murder by Milk Bottle is cleverly plotted, leading readers on a merry chase with links to an unsuspected past crime, rigged beauty contests, and chicanery at an ice show. Scenes celebrate characters’ quirks. There’s a memorable heart-to-heart in a Punch-and-Judy tent between Twitten and Brunswick and a movie-theater reprise of the celebrated Middle Street Massacre, with only two people in the audience—Steine, who reveres the actor playing his role as inspector, and a newspaper reporter set to reveal that Steine could have caught 45 villains but took his men for ice cream instead.

Witty and whimsical, Murder by Milk Bottle is frothy and fun.