W. J. BURLEY – Wycliffe and the Cycle of Death. Supt. Charles Wycliffe #16. Victor Gollancz, UK, hardcover, 1988. Corgi, UK, paperback, 1991. Doubleday, US, hardcover, 1991. TV movie: Pilot episode of Wycliffe, ITV, UK, 7 August 1993.

   To me this would have been an unlikely choice to begin a possible TV series with, as the story runs slowly (but deep) and does not seem to have much dramatic potential. But perhaps it is typical of the stories in the books, of which there were twenty.

   Dead is the owner of a bookstore in a small town in Cornwall. Living in the house attached are several members of his immediate family, with one brother and in son living in a small house some not far distance away.

   For many years they have maintained a solid front to the world, but the past now seems to be catching up to them and revealing their secrets, at least to the patient mind of Supt. Wycliffe. The dead man’s wife had abandoned her family some years ago, and the death of his mother, so many years later, seems now to have been the catalyst for the murder.

   Unfortunately the list of possible suspects is small. It is clear that someone in the family is responsible, but it takes all of Wycliffe’s expertise in probing into a thick wall of resistance before he can make any headway into the case. Even so, when he finally knows who the killer is, he has no proof, and at least one member of the family will lie, rather than have the truth come out.

   It is a strange way to have a detective novel end, but even so, Wycliffe seems to see that in a way justice is done. He spends a lot of time thinking in this case, walking and contemplating, juggling the facts around and around in his head until at length he is satisfied he knows the truth. I’m happy with the ending, but I wish I could promise you that you’d feel the same way I do about it.