Sunday, 23 November 2008

W. J. Burley – “Wycliffe and Death in Stanley Street”

First Publ: as “Death in Stanley Street” 1974, Victor Gollancz
Pensby Library - Orion pbk ed. 2003
ISBN: 0 75284 969 7
Genre: Crime; detective
Rating: ***** ***

I think I recall Wycliffe as having been a television series but I never watched it and, perhaps surprisingly, this is the first Wycliffe book I have read. This is the fifth of Burley’s Wycliffe books. Instantly believable as a 1970s DCI, Wycliffe is a traditional British detective hero. The all round good family guy, liked and respected by his juniors and slightly worrying to his seniors.

The plot was also ‘traditional’ but done with enough skill for the murderer to remain hidden for a while with a few sub-plots of lesser crimes thrown in for good measure.

Stanley Street is one of those dilapidated cul-de-sacs near the centre of a West country town where the respectable poor have houses and the prostitutes have flats. It is in one of the latter that its occupant is found naked and dead but she turns out not to be your average prostitute. Apart from anything else, she owns the property and a few others as well. Wycliffe investigates and, being the sort of character he is, does a fair bit of the leg-work as well as the thinking that eventually lands the villain. If (dare I use the name) Agatha Christie had created a British DCI hero it would have been a Wycliffe.

All-in-all an enjoyable easy read and Wycliffe is a character to whom I shall return when I just want some light-hearted escape. Because it was my first Wycliffe and I love discovering ‘new’ authors this one has squeaked into an 8 star rating but when I put future ones as a seven star it will not mean they are necessarily any less good.

It occurred to me on opening this book that not only is the size of the font important but the line spacing is as well. In this case the line spacing is noticeably far apart and, as a consequence, it was without any strain at all that I read this Orion edition.

W.J. BURLEY, born William John Burley in 1914, started his working life as an engineer, and later went to Balliol to read zoology as a mature student. On leaving Oxford he went into teaching and, until his retirement, was senior biology master in a large mixed grammar school in Newquay in Cornwall. In 1966 he began his third career as a writer and two years later he created Inspector Wycliffe in “Three-toed Pussy”, going on to write another 21 Wycliffe novels.

1. Three-Toed Pussy (1968)
aka Wycliffe and the Three-Toed Pussy
2. To Kill a Cat (1970)
aka Wycliffe and How to Kill a Cat
3. Guilt Edged (1971)
aka Wycliffe and the Guilt Edged Alibi
4. Death in a Salubrious Place (1973)
aka Wycliffe and Death in a Salubrious Place
5. Death in Stanley Street (1974)
aka Wycliffe and Death in Stanley Street
6. Wycliffe and the Pea-Green Boat (1975)
7. Wycliffe and the Schoolgirls (1976)
8. Wycliffe and the Scapegoat (1978)
9. Wycliffe in Paul's Court (1980)
10. Wycliffe's Wild Goose Chase (1982)
11. Wycliffe and the Beales (1983)
12. Wycliffe and the Four Jacks (1985)
13. Wycliffe and the Quiet Virgin (1986)
14. Wycliffe and the Winsor Blue (1987)
15. Wycliffe and the Tangled Web (1988)
16. Wycliffe and the Cycle of Death (1990)
17. Wycliffe and the Dead Flautist (1991)
18. Wycliffe and the Last Rites (1992)
19. Wycliffe and the Dunes Mystery (1993)
20. Wycliffe and the House of Fear (1995)
21. Wycliffe and the Redhead (1997)
22. Wycliffe and the Guild of Nine (2000)

1 comment:

  1. I just watched an episode of Wycliffe and so enjoyed it. The actors, the characters, the setting were just great. I've put the first in the series in my Book Depository save list. The photo of Burley reminds me of both Dylan Thomas and Van Morrison.:<)


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