Towards the end of The Bloodstained Egg Cosy, Inspector Wilkins, the reluctant yet brilliant country detective, bemoans the fact that his success in solving a double murder and jewel theft will likely earn him a promotion. "It'll likely mean more case like this one. There seem to be hundreds of them among the English upper classes these days," he says. "And I really don't enjoy them. I'd be much happier working on the new one-way traffic system."
In this way, throughout the story, James Anderson pays homage to and gently pokes fun at the country house party murder, the foundation stone of British crime fiction. It is done skilfully and with respect for the golden age writers who first articulated the literary convention of sitting all the inhabitants of the house down in the drawing room while the socially inferior - who is always, it seems, an eminently more attractive character - local policeman reveals to all whodunnit.´
The late James Anderson pulls off something of a coup in his revealing tableau in that just about every one of the dozen people sitting before Wilkins is guilty of something - be it arrogance, lying, theft or murder. And this is the culmination of a very clever and hugely involved plot featuring an aristocratic jewel thief, international politics, diplomacy and espionage, revenge, love and a very large collection of guns.
Barely a word is wasted and the story line is littered with clues for the sharp of eye and mind. The social observation is also very keen and the whole story is carried off with a witty charm. It is a worthy modern complement (and perhaps compliment) to the great detective stories of the golden age.
And, of course, Wilkins is spot on. There are hundreds of such crimes to be discovered. And so, if you liked Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, you'll love James Anderson. As I did, and I look forward to the Affairs of both the Mutilated Mink and the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks.