Monday, July 11, 2016

Review of Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm by Gil North (1960, reissued British Library 2016)

When the police are called to the Gunnarshaw home of Amy Snowden they find the middle aged woman dead in her bed, the house full of gas.  The previous year she had married a much younger man, much to everyone’s surprise.  While the death appears to be suicide, Sergeant Cluff is not convinced, despite the fact that her husband was several miles away and has an alibi.  He knew the woman and her dog had disappeared just a few days before.  When the coroner rules suicide, much to the satisfaction of his boss, Cluff takes annual leave in order to investigate further. 

Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm was originally published in 1960 and was the first in a series of eleven books that were also made into a television series.  The story is quite nicely told in an economical style; just as Cluff is a man of few words, so is Gil North.  Yet, there is a clear sense of Cluff’s stoic character and the time and place with regards to the Yorkshire dales in the late 1950s.  Cluff has an interesting approach to solving the case, which is basically to haunt the main suspect and frighten him into a mistake.  That mistake then leads to another related case.  However, the plot is very linear and there are no major twists or reveals, though the pace shifts register from understated to frantic for the denouement.  The result was an enjoyable story that felt more of a tv episode than feature film.

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