There are few surprises for the loyal reader in Bruce Beckham’s latest Skelgill mystery, Murder On the Moor. But surprises aren’t what we look for, any more than Skelgill himself looks for novelty when he spends long hours fishing. The exercise is itself the pleasure.
Dan Skelgill is, as you may recall, a police detective in rural Cumbria. He is supported by his regular team, DS Leyton, a transplanted Cockney from London, and DS Jones, an attractive young woman. Skelgill and Jones almost flirt occasionally, but he’s older than she and doesn’t seriously consider it. Essentially he’s a loner.
In Murder On the Moor, the team is called to investigate the theft of some jewels from the stately home of a local nobleman. Lord Edward Bullingdon. His lordship is married to a much younger wife, a fashion model with expensive tastes and a wandering eye. She even makes a play for Skelgill when he interviews her. He’s not impressed with security at the castle, and especially dislikes Lawrence Melling, the predatory gamekeeper. Local conservationists are concerned about a pair of rare birds of prey nesting on the estate. Melling has made it clear he considers the conservationists a nuisance, and the birds a danger to the grouse they raise for hunting, a necessary income for the operation.
Then Melling is murdered in a very suggestive way, and it’s up to Skelgill and his team to sort through a complexity of possible approaches and alibis to discover the killer.
I’ll have to admit I found Murder On the Moor a little slow around the middle. A lot of the plot hung on the physical layout of the estate, which I never quite mastered. Things picked up toward the end. I enjoyed it all in all, and there was no obscenity. I’ll read the next one.