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Murder in the Museum

Inspector Shelley looked sternly at the little man, as if he did not quite understand what such a mild specimen of humanity could possibly be doing in such a mysterious affair.

Henry looked at the Scotland Yard man, deeply impressed that at last he was meeting one of the great men of whose work he had so often read in the papers.

John Rowland, Murder in the Museum

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Murder in the Museum, by John Rowland, is what I like to think of as an “easy read.” The mystery is there, all right, but there’s some humor too, and a fun cast of characters. It’s not a taxing puzzle, really, though I hadn’t quite worked it all out by the end. It’s an enjoyable mystery and it has an interesting setting. It was a quick read, too, which is sometimes a good thing when you just want something light.

I came away from this one thinking of it as an “odd location” mystery kind of like Antidote to Venom or Death of Anton. Here, the primary murder takes place in the British Museum Reading Room, a quiet, academic building. The death is only noticed because Henry Fairhurst happens to be waiting for his research books to be delivered and is examining his fellow readers.

Henry is a humorous character, bossed about by his housekeeper sister. They’re both stereotypes but do lighten the mood in places. Violet Arnell, daughter of the deceased, is a character herself, very strong willed and determined. I liked her, though I was suspicious of her for a while. In the end, she was a tough woman and handled herself quite well.

My favorite parts were the interplay between Inspector Shelley and Sergeant Cunningham. And then between Shelley and Fairhurst, too. This was my first introduction to Shelley, though it’s the sixth book he appeared in. This was also my introduction to Rowland (unless he had a short story in one of the collections I’ve read… I don’t remember right at the moment). I enjoyed Rowland’s style which was straightforward and clear.

"Shelley smiled, and his smile transformed that somewhat grim face, with its eyes of steel grey, into a new countenance, friendly and inviting confidences—a deceptive change that had, in its time, been the undoing of many a criminal."

Overall, Murder in the Museum was a fun, light read, perfect as an “in between” book when I needed something quick and easy to read. I enjoyed it and can certainly understand why Rowland and his Inspector would have been popular in the 1930s.

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