The Corpse in the Garden of Perfect Brightness

Written by Malcolm Pryce
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

It is 1948, World War II has ended, and the country is getting back on its feet. One of the first events is to nationalise the four main railways, and Jack Wenlock, a railway detective working for one of them, is made redundant. He now has no job and a new wife to support. Put into the care of a railway orphanage when a small boy, he never really knew his mother, so when a letter arrives from a countess in Somerset purporting to be able to put him in touch with her again, he decides to follow this up. What follows is pure fantasy and becomes a tale of spies, secret organisations, crooks and a missing play script, together with journeys to foreign countries and so on.

This is a tale straight from the pages of a Boys’ Own magazine. It has been described as the perfect quirky, nostalgic crime read. However, I found it distinctly difficult to get into, finding it more akin to a comic book. The characters were just characters: I could not believe in them, but can readily understand why they would appeal to readers who appreciate the make-believe. Does Jack find his mother in the end? That is definitely one for the reader to discover. It might be fun to read but, apart from the date, I don’t really feel that this is a historical novel.

Malcolm Pryce is also the author of the popular Aberystwyth Series, which have been serialised on Radio 4.