Subtitled "A County Guides Mystery," this e-book is one of HarperCollins new Witness Impulse imprint. I will be trying several titles from this imprint in the next few weeks, hoping that the books will be good reads. This is a good start.
The story begins in London in the 1930s and then moves to Blakeney, a village in Norfolk County. Stephen Sefton, our narrator, has been hired as an assistant to famous author Swanton Morley. Sefton has no particular background for the position since he neglected his education, drifted, flirted with Communism when he thought he should do something serious, went off to Spain to fight in the civil war, came home disillusioned, and drifted again. He is penniless and has no prospects when he answers Morley's ad in the paper. This will change his life.
Swanton Morley is a pompous bore who talks nonstop whether anyone is interested or not. He's also loud so no one can avoid hearing his sometimes controversial views, but he is oblivious to any objection. His daughter, Miriam, has a small role in the story but since she is her father's exact opposite, she provides comic relief.
Morley has decided his next project, after countless books on various topics, will be a set pf guides to all the counties in England. To research the series, he and Sefton, along with Miriam on occasion, will travel to all the counties. They set off in Morley's car with his portable desk surrounding him, on which a typewriter is secured. He talks and types, and makes me tired. I just couldn't stand him at first, but eventually I was caught up in the story and could see the subtle humor in his stream of conscientiousness.
I like Sefton. He provides the common sense as well as the compassion Morley lacks. There are photographs throughout the book, taken apparently in the 1930s. The mystery doesn't begin until the 28% mark when they find the body of a Church of England minister hanging in his church. At that point the story takes off and more interesting characters are introduced. This isn't the greatest mystery in the world, but it is witty and a good read.
Source: Witness Impulse Imprint, HarperCollins