Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
A small gem in the history of detective fiction and an amusing expose of the author's likes and slights. She starts prosaically with the first full rounded fictional detective: Sergeant Cuff in Wilkie Collin's The Moonstone which leads to A Study in Scarlet when Conan Doyle and Holmes presaged the era of forrensic science.
And so by of novels that were basically puzzles in a male-dominated world to the rise of women in the Golden Age. A wry note here is that Christie, Sayers and Allingham, later Marsh and James herself favoured male investigators.
The sea change - and homage is paid to Chandler, James acknowledging his influence but pointing out that although this is a new hard-boiled school, Marlowe is loyal and vulnerable and ultimately as much a figure of fantasy as Lord Peter Wimsey.
James is not much concerned about Abroad. Simeon gets a mention, Mankell is named but there is no word of Leon, Hillerman, MacClure - and one or two inclusions will raise eyebrows. However, the style is elegant and pacey, spiced with percipient quotations of which the best applies to all good fiction. Here is E.M.Forster on creativity: a man "lets down a bucket into his subconscious, and darws up something which is normally beyond his reach."
A curiosity, a very good read, a stocking filler.