Richardson’s First Case by Basil Thomson

PC Richardson stood in a cold, wet mist at his post on Baker Street, mulling over how he could gain admission to the Criminal Investigation Department of Scotland Yard. Daydreams of a rapid rise through the ranks are interrupted when an old man is heard to say “‘very well, then, I’ll call a policeman'”, then “‘dashed off the pavement without looking right or left'”, seeming to run over to where Richardson had been standing before being stuck down by a car.

Rushed to the nearest hospital, “but in that brief journey the passenger ceased to be a ‘case’ but had taken a longer journey and become a ‘body'”, the man is identified as John Catchpool, shopkeeper of an antique store and registered moneylender, “but he had many other irons in the fire”. Richardson’s attempts to contact Catchpool’s estranged wife leads him to Catchpool’s shop, where he finds her dead on the floor, strangled.

Did Catchpool do the deed himself, or was it something involving one of those “many irons” that got her killed? Then there’s the will, and an inheritance involving two nephews that turns on who died first.

OK…so then PC Richardson disappears from the scene and we have several chapters of investigation by the C.I.D. in the form of Inspector Foster. But it’s his first case! What the WHAT? Deep breath…Thomson is just laying some groundwork…getting straight to the point that this is a police procedural, following the police investigation from start to finish, and by the book. Richardson’s hard work in the initial stages is noted and he’s soon back, working with Foster on a probationary level and a chance at promotion to the C.I.D.

While the narrative is very focused, it flows well and is far from boring. The various suspects and potential motives result in a number of red herrings, each of which require investigation…and not always by the police. Thomson throws in some work by an amateur sleuth, in the form of Navy Lieutenant Guy Kennedy, that is very entertaining.

Thomson is also very concise when it comes to description and characterization. His aim is to show you the team as a whole, with each members contributions, and an occasional glimmers of individuality. But somehow he is still able to convey enough about his characters to pique your interest in them.

The culprit is not that hard to pick out, and the ending is rather abrupt, but all in all I did really enjoy the read.

But there’s still a bigger mystery for me. What is PC Richardson’s given name? And will we ever find out?

My Judgement – 4/5

Prior Rulings – TomCat @ Beneath the Stains of Time, Kate @ crossexamininingcrime

Murder Mystery Bingo – Weapons: Bare Hands, Crime Scene: Store or Restaurant

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