Book Review: Dead Heading by Catherine Aird

Dead HeadingDead Heading
A Sloan and Crosby Mystery #23
Catherine Aird
Minotaur Books, June 2014
ISBN: 978-1-250-04113-5

I must admit that this was my introduction to the Sloan and Crosby Mysteries, of which there have been more than twenty.  But it won’t be the last I read, as it is completely charming.

DI Christopher Dennis (“Seedy”) Sloan is head of the small Criminal Investigation Department of “F” Division of the County of Calleshire Police Force at Berebury. Practically on the eve of his appraisal by his boss, known as a “Personal Development Discussion,” he is on “good behavior” when that superior officer, Superintendent Leeyes, assigns him to investigate what may be only a malicious breakin at a local plant nursery where, on a cold night, the doors to two greenhouses were left wide open on a night when an early frost has set in, virtually killing its contents, in one of which were the remains of young and very special [read “expensive”] orchids, threatening the livelihood, or worse, of the nursery’s owner. From this seemingly innocuous beginning, the ensuing plot ultimately involves a break-in at an area cottage by two different persons; “an unloved missing person; the blackmailing of more than one poor soul; the probable suicide of one of them; the odd, naïve behaviour of a maker of bonfires; inexplicable goings-on in the horticultural trade and, cast into the mixture for good measure, the destruction of hundreds of infant orchids.”

When a second nursery is broken into, Sloane and his underling, D.C. Crosby, investigate, and discover that yet another large number of valuable orchids has been destroyed; it becomes clear that this is something more than a coincidence. As things escalate and the number of suspects rises, the pressure on Sloane mounts as well. Leeyes is a difficult man to please: “on a bad day the superintendent was quite capable of blaming him for not catching Jack the Ripper.”

With references to Shakespeare, Erasmus and Shaw, and filled with horticultural metaphors, the writing is delightful.  The attorneys for one of the suspects are Puckle, Puckle and Nunnery.  (I do have to admit that I never knew that the word “turf,” in the plural, could be “turves.”)  By the end, all the loose ends are tied up and the mystery is solved to the reader’s complete satisfaction.  The novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2014.