Death Makes a Prophet by John Bude (1947)

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As the founder and High Prophet of sect know as the Children of Osiris (Cooism for short), Eustace K Mildmann has attracted thousands of followers, and a wealthy benefactress, Mrs Alicia Hagge-Smith. Now, Eustace’s position is in danger. The charismatic Peta Penpeti has been rising through the ranks, and higher in the estimation Mrs. Hagge-Smith, as well as other female members. Factions begin to form, and secrets are hidden. And during a festival of Cooism the simmering tensions lead to murder, and what will be for Inspector Meredith, one of the most challenging cases of his career

Interestingly, murder doesn’t occur until more than half-way through the novel. The first half of the story sets the scene and provides endless possibilities for victims, suspects, and motives. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to let this put you off though, because it’s also very entertaining. Bude uses this time well to develop his setting and characters with much wry humor.

“A very high percentage of the Welworth élite are not only vegetarians, but non-smokers, non-drinkers and non-pretty-much-anything-that-makes-life-worth-living for less high-minded citizens.”

As for characters, in addition to the mildly diffident Eustace, there’s Mrs Alicia Hagge-Smyth, who “had taken to religion as other women take to golf, bridge or pink gin; Eustace’s son Terrance, who at twenty-one, was “still a very junior schoolboy”; the languid young acolyte Penelope Parker, whose presence was “a kind of sweet torment” to Eustace; Hansford Boot, Eustace’s staunchest advocate, “who spoke a kind of shorthand English peculiarly his own”; and the aforementioned Prophet-in-Waiting, Peta Penpeti, complete with caftan and fez.

The second half becomes more serious after no one, but two murders are committed and Inspector Meredith is called in to investigate. It becomes a question of who killed whom, in what order and why? The actual murder method is nicely contrived and provides more of a mystery perhaps than the simple question of whodunit. The reader is privy to all of the information as Meredith investigates the clues. Alibis are broken, mysterious strangers appear, and more murder is done before Meredith finally finds the solution.

An oddly engaging novel, combining satire and murder which I highly recommend.

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Salvador Dali in “Teddy Bear” coat

Oh, and there was one more mystery in the story that I just had to solve.  The mystery of the character wearing a “teddy bear coat”. What is a “teddy bear coat”? I should have probably left this one for Moira @ Clothes in Books, but I immediately dove into Google. It seems that in the early 1900’s because most cars were open, drivers and passengers were exposed and so needed some form of protection from the elements. In the winter heavier fabrics were called for, such as tweeds, leather and fur. But in the case of the company know as Motoluxe, it was deep-pile Alpaca fur fabric. This was the same material used by Steiff to produce the world’s first stuffed toy bear, later to be known as the Teddy Bear. Along the way, and because that they were made out of the same material as the Steiff bear, the fluffy car-coats became known as Teddy Bear Coats. Mystery solved.

My Judgment – 4.25/5

Prior Rulings – Aidan @ Mysteries Ahoy, The Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – Vintage Mystery Challenge 2018: Just the Facts, Ma’am –  Where – At a Country House

Murder Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge – Crime Scene: Bedroom; Red Herrings: Secret marriage

Calendar of Crime Reading Challenge – May #7: Book title has word starting with “M.”

2 thoughts on “Death Makes a Prophet by John Bude (1947)

  1. I have this on my TBR, it seems to be the most highly-regarded of the Budes in the BLCC canon. I tried one of his The [Location] Murder books and didn’t get on with it, but the sheer range of people who have found much to enjoy in this ones makes me more hopeful.

    1. It is very different from his others. As I said, rather odd, but it’s snarky humor and pretty good (albeit late in the story) mystery make the build up worth it.

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