Monday, April 22, 2024

Aubrey's Nye Hamilton Reviews: Robbed Blind by Roy Hart

Between 1987 and 1994 Roy Hart, a British avionics engineer, wrote nine police procedurals fronted by Detective Superintendent Douglas Roper of the Dorset County Criminal Investigation Department on the southern coast of England. In line with the procedural that was popular in the 1980s, they are all set in villages and the plots all focus on the investigation rather than the psychology of the crime. While there are quirky characters, they take a back seat to the detailed and systematic description of police activities in collecting and sifting clues to find the culprit. The fifth in the series Robbed Blind (Macmillan London, 1990) is a good example.

The night of Good Friday in the village of Little Crow Stella Pumfrey was found dead at the foot of the stairs in her home. Her shoe caught in the carpet on the landing bore mute testimony to an accidental fall that caused Stella’s head to collide with ferocity against the newel post. The post-mortem, though, showed the damage to Stella’s skull could not have been caused by the fall.

By the time the police received the autopsy report recommending further investigation, the crime scene had been thoroughly contaminated, much to Roper’s frustration. Initial inquiries reveal that Stella had money and her husband and her sister were in line to inherit it. Neither of them was on good terms with the victim. Then there was the lover rumored to be in the background. But perhaps it was not personal at all: an exquisite and valuable pair of earrings is missing. Could she have been surprised by the burglar that was known to be in the neighborhood? As Roper talks to Stella’s family and friends, he finds no shortage of possible scenarios and people with adverse interests to Stella’s.

This series seems to have flown under the radar in the U.S. The first two titles were not published here, and none of them seem to have been reprinted after the initial hardback and paperback issue. Roper isn’t given much of a back story, although there is some information about him, and perhaps he wasn’t vivid enough to capture lasting interest. A review from Publishers Weekly said he lacked the edge of a Sherlock Holmes, although both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus spoke highly of the series. While nine books is a respectable run, timing probably also affected its popularity, as reading tastes were moving towards gritty, violent crime fiction with lots of action.

I found this series entry a solid, capable detective story with complex plotting, plenty of red herrings, and plausible suspects. Recommended for fans of police procedurals and admirers of traditional mysteries.


·         Publisher: St Martins Press; First Edition (January 1, 1990)

·         Language: English

·         Hardcover: 206 pages

·         ISBN-10: 0312044143

·         ISBN-13: 978-0312044145


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Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2024 

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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