Coffin, Scarcely Used (Flaxborough Mystery #1) Review
Click here to buy posters
In Association with
During the summer, families often flock to sleepy seaside towns to enjoy some sun and surf in a charming setting. But in Coffin, Scarcely Used, the first book in late author Colin Watson’s classic Flaxborough Mystery series, some of the town’s leaders get caught up in something less than charming.

The story follows Detective Inspector Purbright as the strange death of newspaperman Marcus Gwill turns into an investigation of some of the town’s most influential people. It seems that, one evening, after receiving a troubling phone call, Gwill walked out the door to his home and electrocuted himself. As more details come out, though, they suggest that Gwill’s death was neither suicide nor an accident. None of Gwill’s wealthy and influential friends—the lawyer, the doctor, or the coroner—have any information to offer, but Purbright is convinced that something unpleasant is happening in their small town.

Originally published in 1958 and now rereleased in ebook format, Coffin, Scarcely Used has the small-town charm of a classic cozy mystery—but with a biting sense of humor that you might just miss if you’re not paying close attention.

The British town of Flaxborough seems like a quaint little town—and the 1950s setting definitely gives it an old-fashioned feel. In fact, at times, the setting seems even more old-fashioned than it really is. But the mystery that unfolds isn’t nearly as prim and proper as the language suggests. Something shady is going on here—and it seems as though the town’s most prominent citizens are all collectively hiding the truth. But Detective Inspector Purbright and his sometimes laughably naive colleagues are determined to find the answers that will lead them to Gwill’s killer. And as their investigation continues, they uncover some surprising information.

Though Purbright himself isn’t especially well-developed in his first outing, the ultra-polite detective is certainly thorough and resolute—and his story is definitely written with a witty sense of humor. But you might find yourself so buried in the seemingly formal language (and, occasionally, British slang) that you might not pick up on the comedy of it all until later. This is a short novel, but unless you’re used to reading British mysteries from the ‘50s, it’ll take quite a bit longer to read than you’d expect.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries with British characters, you may enjoy this first Flaxborough Mystery. If you can get beyond the slower pace and seemingly stuffy tone, you’ll find that the people of this small town aren’t what they seem.

Listen to the review on Shelf Discovery:

Submissions Contributors Advertise About Us Contact Us Disclaimer Privacy Links Awards Request Review Contributor Login
© Copyright 2002 - 2018 All rights reserved.