COLIN WATSON – Lonelyheart 4122. Inspector Purbright/Flaxborough #4. Eyre & Spottiswoode, UK, hardcover, 1967. Putnam, US, hardcover, 1967. Berkley, US, paperback, 1968. Academy Chicago, US, paperback, 1983. TV movie: ABC, 1972, as The Crooked Hearts (with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Rosalind Russell, Ross Martin). Two-part TV episodes: BBC, UK, episodes 2 and 3 of Murder Most English: A Flaxborough Chronicle (May 8 & 15, 1977) with Anton Rogers as DI Purbright and Brenda Bruce as Lucilla Teatime.

   This fourth novel in the Flaxborough chronicle marks the arrival in Purbright country of the trim, handsome, and fiftyish Miss Lucilla Teatime, the loveable but nefarious con artist who literally gets away with murder.

   Two ladies seem to have vanished, spinster Martha Reckitt and widowed Mrs. Lilian Bannister. Detective Inspector Purbright, “an expert on female psychology,” according to Chief Constable Harcourt Chubb, feels that a marriage offer is at the bottom of each of the eases in question since both women had “ready money” and matrimonial availability.

   Miss Teatime and Purbright’s roads converge at Handclasp House, a supposed matrimonial agency run by the Staunches and obviously at the core. of the mysterious disappearances. Purbright’s attempt to put Miss Teatime under surveillance aborts when this slippery eel eludes Sgt. Love. Miss Teatime on her own is out to outcon the original con artist, and Purbright in turn must. try to outfox this very foxy lady.

   It’s a double game of cat and mouse, cleverly contrived and hilariously executed, no less than we have come to expect of Colin Watson in this delightful series.

– Reprinted from The Poisoned Pen, Volume 2, Number 4 (July-August 1979).