Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wycliffe and the Three-Toed Pussy: W. J. Burley

I was not sure how much I would enjoy the Wycliffe series. I had read several of the books years and years ago and I like them then, but I have changed and my tastes have changed. Back then, I would not have read the thrillers that I enjoy now.

Wycliffe and the Three-Toed Pussy was the first book in a series of 22 books. They are police procedurals featuring Chief Superintendent Wycliffe

I am glad to say that I did enjoy the book very much. It is a traditional mystery with little violence on the page, but it definitely has an edge. The victim, Pussy Welles, was not an innocent young woman, and a lot of the villagers are not very attractive people.

Here is part of the description from the back of the edition I read (Corgi paperback edition, 1995):
Pussy Welles was dead. She lay slumped on the plain oatmeal-covered carpet, her auburn hair lustrous in the sunlight, and a jagged hole ripped by a bullet in the middle of her chest. What was even more bizarre was that the murderer had torn the shoe and stocking from her left leg, revealing that Pussy had a deformed foot bearing only three toes.
The location is a fictitious village named Kergwyns on the Cornwall coast between St. Ives and Zennor. Burley was born and bred in Cornwall, and he brings that area to life in this book.

Superintendant Wycliffe detects intuitively, walking around the village, talking informally to the residents, gathering impressions. Inspector Darley is more of a "by the book" detective, and prefers to follow established routine. They work well together because they bring different talents to the investigation.

The only negative aspect for me was Wycliffe's evident distaste for a homosexual couple. He admits that his attitude bothers him. The book was published in 1968. Possibly this is just a reflection of those times when there was less acceptance of that lifestyle.

Another plus with this book was that it was a nice length, about 220 pages. I am looking forward to continuing the series. My husband also read this book in 2012 and enjoyed it. See his review at Goodreads.

7 comments:

  1. I like the idea of reading about a detective who investigates a murder mystery with an air of informality though the blurb you reproduced suggests a more sinister affair. I'm afraid I am not familiar with W.J. Burley and his fiction but I welcome the introduction to the series. Thank you, Tracy.

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    1. Thanks, Prashant. I hope you try it sometime.

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  2. Tracy - Oh, you've reminded me of a great series, for which thanks. In my opinion, Burley effectively strikes a very difficult balance between building suspense and keeping the story 'edgy' and on the other hand focusing on the investigation instead of a lot of violence and so on.

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    1. Margot, It is interesting how different various police procedural series can be. I like all kinds, I guess.

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  3. I have not read any of the books although I would like too. My library doe not carry them. I have watched the TV series. It is very slow. I will watch it if there is not something else on. I might like the books better.

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    1. Interesting about the TV series, Peggy. I did not even know that there was a TV series until I did some research on W. J. Burley recently. I do want to try the TV series. But I suspect you would like the books better.

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  4. I've never read any of this series. I'll have to see if my library has them. It sounds like the type of mystery I tend to enjoy.

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