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The Cheltenham Square Mystery

It strikes me that we might as well put a list of names in the hat and draw for it!

The Cheltenham Square Murder, John Bude

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I’m happy to report that I actually figured this mystery out, albeit in pieces. The Cheltenham Square Murder was a fun one. I’m thoroughly enjoying John Bude’s Inspector Meredith and can’t wait to find some more of his adventures.

The setting this time around was essentially a closed circle of residents on Regency Square where there are just 10 houses. The first chapter takes the time to outline who lives there, what each person is like, and where there might be some tension between different inhabitants. It’s a wonderful setup with lots of information and Bude paints a vivid picture of the quiet square

“Thus the inhabitants of Regency Square—diverse, yet as a community, typical; outwardly harmonious, yet privately at loggerheads; temperamentally and intellectually dissimilar, yet all of them chiselling away at the same hard block of granite which, for want of a better word, we call life.

Superintendent Meredith (this is the 4th Meredith book; the other I read, Death Makes a Prophet was number 11), is visiting an author friend for his holidays and they’re working on a book together. The holiday is, of course, interrupted by murder. This arrangement seems less contrived than some other Golden Age mysteries that find a detective just happening upon a case while vacationing. In this case, both the author and Meredith were guests to the Square.

It's a tricky mystery for a closed circle and it takes quite a bit more time to uncover motives and clues than many other mysteries I’ve read. This one unfolds over the course of several weeks, causing Meredith to have to make arrangements to stay on past his vacation.

Meredith is his perfectly rational, thoughtful, and disciplined self throughout. He stops to consider motives and suspects from top to bottom several times throughout. It seemed to me that one of the things that kept not being considered was quite an obvious thing that should have occurred to Meredith far earlier than it did. But he and his local partner have a few interesting conversations, trying to get at the solution through various means.

In the end, The Cheltenham Square Murder was a great puzzle and an enjoyable read. Regency Square was an interesting setting but felt a little flat sometimes. Some characters aren’t given very much attention at all; others talked to constantly. They could all have been a little more fully rounded. Overall, though it’s a delightful mystery and a fun one to have figured out.

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