William F. Deeck

BELTON COBB – Murder: Men Only. W. H. Allen, UK, hardcover, 1962. No US edition.

   Fearing that Detective Chief Inspector Cheviot Burmann is losing his grip on his job by not following up on information received, Woman Police Constable Kitty Palgrave takes it upon herself to investigate what might be going on at Mrs. Munro’s boardinghouse. This establishment is perhaps unique in that Mrs. Munro takes in only nonpaying male guests who she thinks might be lonely.

   Taking leave from the police department, Palgrave gets herself employed as housemaid at the boardinghouse. Her main discovery there is the corpse of Burmann’s informant, a new inmate at the boardinghouse. When he becomes aware of Palgrave’s presence at the crime scene, Burmann comments: “As usual, you have wandered into one of my cases — and everything is considerably more complicated in consequence.”

   Mrs. Munro is a dotty landlady, seldom finishing a sentence or a thought, and Burmann has trouble coping with her. Nonetheless, he clears up the crime in a tolerably amusing book.

   There apparently is no such thing as a bad boardinghouse novel.

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 3, Summer 1992.

Editorial Comment:   This is a scarce but not particularly valuable book. There are two copies in English (and two in French) to be found on abebooks, for example, and in neither case is the asking price over $20.

   Cheviot Burmann was Cobb’s most commonly used series character, beginning with either No Alibi or The Poisoner’s Mistake, both of which came out in 1936 . A fellow named Bryan Armitage shared the billing in a few novels (including Murder: Men Only, although Bill did not happen to have mentioned it) plus had a few solo adventures on his own. Supt. Manning was the leading character in several more books.

   She’s not mentioned in Al Hubin’s Revised Crime Fiction IV, but reading between the lines in Bill’s review, it’s all but certain that Constable Kitty Palgrave was in more than one of Inspector Burmann’s books as well.