Frederick "Freddie" Minshull Stockdale (1947–2018) was a British impresario who founded Pavilion Opera, a touring company that made opera accessible to the greater population. He graduated from Cambridge with a degree in law but he never practiced. He wrote several nonfiction books on the subject of opera; under the name John Gano, he wrote two quite authentic mysteries about the fictional Floria Grand Opera Company. Using his law degree and knowledge of the prison system, he wrote five books about Detective Inspector Jim Proby of the Hampton police force.
The first one is Inspector Proby’s Christmas (Macmillan UK, 1994). Detective Sergeant Ted Rootham hauls Proby out of his warm bed far too early on a cold December morning with the news of a homicide. A young woman has been shot point blank near the canal. She’s pregnant and wearing a wedding ring. When Proby and Rootham learn she’s the new wife of John Percy Doyle, a gangster with a reputation for unbridled violence, they assume they have found the killer in record time. Until they learn Doyle’s alibi is robust and the paraffin test shows he has not handled a firearm recently. The second murder of another young woman occurs in short order; this time Doyle has a rock-solid alibi with unimpeachable witnesses.
A second thread to the narrative focuses on Proby’s marriage, which is not as stable as he could hope. This affects his ability to be objective as the investigation unfolds. At one point Proby knew the identity of the killer but lacked enough evidence to make an arrest stick, which adds a realistic dimension to the story as does the tedium of the detailed slog needed to build a case. His boss, with whom he has a good working relationship, sends him off on a completely different path to break the impasse. The description of the Christmas service in which undercover police take part to watch their primary suspect was a nice touch. The characters are creative and convincing, from Doyle the crime boss to the members of the investigative team. An excellent police procedural.
· Publisher: Macmillan U.K.; First Edition (January 1, 1994)
· Language: English
· Hardcover: 192 pages
· ISBN-10: 0333610547
· ISBN-13: 978-0333610541
Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2022
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.
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