Murder in Haxford (Pignon Scorbion, 2)

Written by Rick Bleiweiss
Review by Fiona Alison

This is the second in the Pignon Scorbion mystery series, which act like cozies in avoidance of gratuitous detail, but feature a professional detective. The setting is unusual because Pignon chooses to conduct his interviews not at the police station but in the local barber shop, owned by his friend Calvin. Recently relocated to the fictional small town of Haxford, England, in 1910, Pignon has deputized a number of acquaintances in order to assist with his enquiries: Calvin, of course; crime reporter Billy; book store owner Thelma, with whom he’s courting romance (despite the possibility of his ex-wife’s emergence); barbers Yves and Barnabus; and the bootblack, Thomas.

This is a totally unlikely medley of quirk, but it works well. Pignon is a stickler for proper decorum and known for his signature attire. His speech is unhurried, exacting, and outrageously idiosyncratic. Not unlike British murder mystery TV series where small towns suffer an abundance of murders, this story takes place immediately after book one’s unfortunate demises, but there’s no need to read them in order unless you desire a fuller fleshing out of character. In this volume, a blacksmith suffers death by crossbow, after which three more bodies quickly follow, killed by arrow (again), by knife, and by pitchfork. Almost immediately upon the solving of the case, a money lender-cum-art forger is poisoned, so the posse of sleuths is kept hopping.

One small thing that irritated me was the frequent use of the word ‘alit’ (from a carriage) which, given the era, should perhaps have been ‘alighted.’ Slightly shy of the finesse of the first book, the second is a fun and wryly weird contribution nonetheless, sufficient to defy any preconceptions of what a historical mystery is. Enjoy!