Cover detail of The Mysterious Mr Badman by W.F.Harvey

The Mysterious Mr Badman by W.F.Harvey

Happy Friday to you dear reader. I hope it has been a good week. I'm a bit late to publish this post today, but am bringing to you another of my holiday reads. I've already decided that the next post will be 2 reviews, and will be the last of those sunshine reads. Even more shockingly is that both feature on the BBC Big Read list. Do you remember when I set myself a challenge to re-read the books on this list? And in 3 years, have managed 24 of them. hahaha. Well I'm crossing 2 more off the list. Wahoo!

Read all about my BBC Big Read Challenge

Today's review is again me being a bit contrary. Imagine the scene, a hot day, temperatures climbing to 30 degrees, a sun lounger, the sounds of the wave gently pulsating on the shore. Me lazing on said sun-lounger with a fruit punch in hand and a book about a crime set in Yorkshire in the other. I read Christmas books in June, books set in freezing temperatures in Grenada. I am a kaleidoscope of reading. But, what I can promise you today is a very enjoyable novel. Let's find out more shall we?

The Plot

On holiday in Keldstone visiting his nephew Jim, blanket manufacturer Athelstan Digby agrees to look after the old bookshop on the ground floor of his lodgings while his hosts are away. On the first day of his tenure, a vicar, a chauffeur and an out-of-town stranger enquire after The Life and Death of Mr Badman by John Bunyan. When a copy mysteriously arrives at the shop in a bundle of books brought in a by a young scamp, and is subsequently stolen, Digby moves to investigate the significance of the book along with his nephew, and the two are soon embroiled in a case in which the stakes have risen from antiquarian book-pinching to ruthless murder.

My Thoughts

There is the most wonderful moment in this novel near the climax of the book when Athelstan Digby needing to drive to save his nephew announces

'I want you to telephone to the nearest garage...and ask them to send their fastest car round her at once. And as soon as you have done that bring me two eggs lightly boiled, some tea and bread and butter. Be as quick as you can...the matter is urgent'

I sat on my sun lounger hooting at this quote which typified this book as classic 1930s crime writing and great fun. After all, in a matter of life and death there is always time to have a light lunch.

I adored Athelstan Digby, the most benign and twinkly eyed character who offering to look after a bookshop is astonished when 3 unconnected people come searching from an obscure John Bunyan title. Even more astonishing is when a copy of the book turns up in a collection of donated books from the library of the nearest house that same afternoon.

What follows is a brilliantly paced crime novel, featuring a car chase, blackmail, romance and a prison break. At its heart is Athlestan and his nephew Jim. Even Athelstan's profession as a blanket manufacturer comes into play, as he is able to solve a clue from his knowledge of wool-weaving. It is also a wonderful snapshot of the 1930's typified by good manners, sportsmanship and of course that cup of tea in times of panic.

I would definitely recommend reading the biography of W.F. Harvey at the start of the book, he has had a heroic life and I'm please to discover that there is another book to feature Athelstan - The Misadventures of Athelstan Digby which I will definitely be keeping an eye out for.

All in all, this was an excellent read, with an engaging investigator and a good romping crime. Maybe boiled eggs for tea tonight to celebrate dear Athelstan!

I hope you have a great weekend. I am reading The Hike by Lucy Clarke at the moment, it's already proving quite the page-turner.