81) Gladys Mitchell — The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop (The Mrs Bradley Mysteries)
Second of the long-running Mrs Bradley mystery series, and the first I’ve read. I bought a set of nine of the novels recently re-published by Vintage (Random House) because I adored the BBC adaptation starring Diana Rigg and Neil Dudgeon. Unsurprisingly, the books differ significantly from the tv series, but are equally enjoyable. And I think the tv adaptation is faithful to the tone of the novels; even if Diana Rigg is far too elegant and glamorous to be the physical Mrs Bradley of the books, she’s got the personality right.
Mrs Bradley is elderly, wealthy, eccentric, and a talented and experienced psychologist who uses her skills to solve crimes. As other reviewers have noted, there’s a distinct resemblance to what you’d get if you turned Miss Marple into a wealthy woman who has married and divorced three times, and divorced at least one of those husbands for being boring. The ones I’ve read so far are enormous fun.
The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop is fairly gruesome, in that the body of one Rupert Sethleigh is found neatly butchered and laid out as cuts of meat in the local butcher’s shop. Sethleigh will not be missed by Wandle Parva, and there is a large and varied selection of people with motives to do away with him. Adding to the fun and games, many of those people have reason to protect each other, and their attempts to do so only confuse the issues. General silliness ensues as Mrs Bradley disentangles methods, motives and opportunity, frequently by deliberately poking the suspects to see what they will do.