This title comes about halfway through Gregson’s series featuring Superintendent Lambert and Detective Sergeant Hook of the Gloucestershire CID. I liked it so much I’ve started from the beginning, and I’m enjoying the series. An Academic Death is a straightforward cozy-type British police procedural with a minimum of personal drama. The strength of the series is the team-up of the perceptive, introspective Lambert with the reliable, comfortably stolid Hook. Where this series really shines is when Lambert and Hook interview a suspect. The action here is almost purely mental and the tension almost palpable. Lambert scrutinizes the faces and body language of the suspects closely, allowing them to guide his questioning. Hook, blank-faced, turns a page in his notebook. Suspects squirm. It’s actually high drama disguised as a plodding police interview!
In this installment, a brassy wife reports her wayward husband missing to the Gloucestershire police. She makes it clear that if they find him she doesn’t want the ol’ no-goodnik back. No one is terribly concerned until the university professor turns up dead; then Lambert and Hook focus on the campus where he worked, turning up several suspects—including, of course, the disgruntled missus.
I’ve noticed that there are rarely any surprise twists or complications in this series—Gregson epitomizes the concept of fair play in mystery fiction. The murderer generally turns out to be one of the “usual suspects;” the reader just has to figure out which one of them is lying. Where the sheer amount of jiggery-pokery in many mysteries often makes me feel disinclined to actually try solving the puzzle, the Lambert and Hook series has been stripped down to a straight, strong “whodunit” whose challenge is a bit more accessible, with just enough humor to make it entertaining along the way.
The Lambert and Hook mysteries often have a golfing theme. Although golf is not the main venue in this particular title, longtime golf enthusiast Lambert and newly initiated golfer Hook do have a few very funny scenes on the links.
I am glad I discovered these solid British police procedurals. They’re just my cup of tea!
Check the WRL catalog for An Academic Death