The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks

Written by James Anderson
Review by Steve Lewis

Murder at Alderley once again! After a gap of over twenty years, this third in the series is another fine throwback to the English country house mysteries of the 1930s, filled with people filled with secrets they wish to be kept hidden; witty (and often cutting) dialogue; near farcical encounters in the night; and more clues than you can imagine.

Behind a rather sanguine facade, Inspector Wilkins is quite a detective, and at the end he patiently goes through each of the pieces of evidence that brought him to his final conclusion – who did it and how, and how he found out.

It’s quite a challenge for an author to produce a period detective novel that’s both humorous and a fair play mystery as well, and two out of three is not bad. After the explanations are over, it’s clear that not even the cleverest of armchair detectives could have worked the solution out on their own. Wilkins has the resources, the reader doesn’t, and the reader is not told of the crucial details until too late.

This is almost, but not quite, a great detective novel, and better than 90% of those written today. And unless Mr. Anderson can be persuaded to write another, or he has one locked away in a trunk somewhere, I also have the feeling that this may finally be the end of the series. I hope I’m wrong.