Published by Bloomsbury Raven
Publication date – 22 July 2021
Source – review copy
The August bank holiday is approaching and after two extremely high-profile murder cases, Constable Twitten is eagerly anticipating a quiet spell at work. But then they find the bodies – and the milk bottles.
Three seemingly unconnected victims – a hard-working AA patrolman, a would-be Beauty Queen, a catty BBC radio personality – have all been killed with the same, highly unusual murder weapon. Constable Twitten, Sergeant Brunswick and Inspector Steine are initially baffled, the town is alarmed, and the local newspaper is delighted: after all, what sells papers better than a killer on the loose?
Can our redoubtable trio solve the case and catch this most curious of killers before they strike again?
Constable Twitten is trying to get back to basics. Back to the boring side of policing, the side without bodies piling up and people getting shot. So he’s taken it upon himself to walk a nightly beat, getting to know the locals of Brighton, even if they don’t want to be known. However, it’s seems Twitten’s intentions are for naught when a series of murders take place, all the victims seemingly killed by milk bottles of all things. Can Twitten, Sergeant Brunswick and Inspector Steine figure out who had a grudge to bear against all three victims, and possibly against lactose?
Murder by Milk Bottle is the third Constable Twitten novel after A Shot in the Dark and The Man That Got Away. I hadn’t read either before and whilst there is some mention of the goings on in the first two books, there wasn’t enough to possibly spoil my enjoyment should I go back and read them, nor did it prevent this third story from making sense.
The reader is taken to 1950s Brighton and a sparkling August bank holiday. The Milk Marketing Board are focussing their attention on the resort. It would also appear that the English contingent of the gangland community are having a sojourn to the seaside too. What can possibly go wrong?
There is a lot of gentle humour that runs throughout the novel, miscommunication, misdirection and misunderstanding leading Twitten into scraps and situations he hadn’t foreseen when he joined the force. It perhaps doesn’t help that the only person he can confide in is the force tea lady, Mrs Groyne, which is unfortunate given she is also the leader of the criminal gang working in Brighton. Twitten knows this but can’t persuade anyone else to believe him so finds himself treading a fine line with the char come charlatan who seems to have taken him under her wing.
Twitten is a rather innocent character, unaware that people are making fun of him, and sometimes finding offence where none was intended. He doesn’t notice when he’s being flirted with and seems a little lost and lonely at times. He is over keen and doesn’t always ingratiate himself. Sergeant Brunswick finds himself attracted to unsuitable women and appears to be a magnet for any stray bullet flying around the pier. He is more observant than his superior, Inspector Steine, who wants a quiet life, one that makes him look good and involves the least effort. Or interaction with his staff if at all possible.
The mystery itself is engaging and reminiscent of golden age crime novels. What did the victims have in common and who would want to beat them to death with milk bottles of all things? The story unravels as each of the men find out more about what has happened and the dots are connected, though perhaps more by accident than design.
A fun, though rather murdery, jaunt to the seaside.