Suddenly While Gardening (Walker, 1978) by Elizabeth Lemarchand (1906-2000) is the 10th mystery featuring Detective-Chief Superintendent Tom Pollard of New Scotland Yard and his partner Detective Inspector Toye. On a well-deserved vacation to a rural village where his aunt lives, Pollard is happily soaking in local color in the form of a restored path used for religious pilgrimages centuries ago. He happens upon a walking group who have found a newish skeleton on the path. He has no choice but to take charge until the local authorities arrive. When they throw up their hands and call in Scotland Yard, of course Pollard is selected to investigate since he already knows the area and its people and was first on the crime scene.
One of the village residents objected strenuously to the re-establishment of the path, as it runs near his property. He is eccentric and offensive enough to draw attention to himself as a likely perpetrator until his absence from the area during the critical timeframe was firmly determined. Then an anonymous caller reports the car of a well-known young architect was seen near the site. Pollard patiently sifts through reports and interviews and about two-thirds through the story links the death he’s investigating to an earlier death that was believed to be accidental, which rearranges the supposed motive for the killing and the list of suspects entirely.
This is a pleasant classic police procedural set in an historically interesting area of England. What I was beginning to consider an unremarkable tale turned grim late in the book and I was riveted for the remainder of the story.
Elizabeth Lemarchand released 17 Pollard and Toye police procedurals between 1967 and 1988. These books are recommended for lovers of Catherine Aird’s Calleshire Chronicles and Dorothy Simpson’s Inspector Luke Thanet mysteries.