Turns out I’d missed a couple books in the Inspector Skelgill series by Bruce Beckham. But no matter. The continuing characters and Cumberland setting remain much the same, barring Skelgill’s gradual retirement from his fell running hobby, which just leaves him more time for his fishing.
Murder at Dead Crags seems to be a sort of tribute to The Hound of the Baskervilles. Antonia Crow, co-owner of a wild animal zoo, has been found dead at the foot of Dead Crags, an ill-omened local landmark. Antonia is the descendent of Piet Crow, a big game hunter who long ago returned from South Africa to establish the zoo. He owned a terrifying large black dog, and local legend says the dog still walks the fells, seeking to waylay nighttime walkers.
When Antonia’s sister Vivienne is nearly killed by a high caliber rifle bullet, Inspector Skelgill looks for more prosaic motives and perpetrators. There are a couple bidders who’d love to get their hands on the Crows’ land, and an animal rights group has set up a camp to protest the zoo itself (Skelgill’s female subordinate, DS Jones, is working undercover among them). When the culprit is revealed, both their lives will be in peril.
The Skelgill books are a lot of fun, though Skelgill can be a tad annoying – especially in his denial of his mutual attraction to DS Jones. I would say the animal rights people don’t come off terribly well in this book, but on the other side of the balance there’s a predatory real estate developer who is clearly a caricature of Donald Trump. So we’re all even, more or less.
Recommended, and the author himself admits he edits his dialogue to soften bad language.