Landed Gently (Scene of the Crime Ser., No. 38) - Alan Hunter I first ran across Chief Inspector Gently in the British TV series of the same name. All episodes were typically British dark, bordering on noir, and excellent, except for the pilot which was almost enough for me to junk watching. I’m glad I gave the show an extra chance.

I happened to notice that the series was based on a plethora of books by Alan Hunter, a name totally unknown to me, but, who, having written about fifty of these novels must have been more than popular in the fifties and sixties; so I located and ordered several (don’t you just love union catalogs.).

“Landed Gently” was the first I read. It concerns DCI Gently’s first Christmas holiday out of London in many years. He has been invited to indulge in his favorite pastime, fishing for pike, at the country estate of Chief Constable Daynes Broke in Northshire. On the train north he is accompanied in his first class compartment by a young American lieutenant, an ebullient and self-confident individual, who, it turns out, will be staying at Merely Hall with Lord Somerhayes, just across the fields from Broke’s manor.

Merely Hall, a rambling, enormous, old manor –the map in the beginning is confusing, be sure to check the compass rose– is also the site of a business where they produce tapestries. And we learn a lot about tapestry making. But when Lt. Earle is found at the bottom of the stairs with his head bashed in, and CC Broke and the local inspector are anxious to not involve Lord Somerhayes in the investigation, Gently notes certain anomalies in statements and actions. He also feels Somerhayes keeps trying to draw him into the investigation.

We soon realize that the widow Janice Page was the subject of more than friendly interest from several participants, including Earle and that Somerhayes’ will had an unusual beneficiary.

While the language seems a bit stilted to the modern ear more used to the overused and ubiquitous “motherfucker,” the book has an appeal that keeps drawing one back into it. I’ll have to read a couple more Gently’s before passing final judgment, however.

One phrase I particularly enjoyed was, “I believe Americans mature more slowly than Englishmen.” I also suspect that all the names are puns of some sort.