‘The Complete Steel’ is a very lighthearted piece, almost cartoonish in its depiction of the English aristocracy. In terms of tone, the word ‘droll’ comes to mind. No grief, angst or terror here. Just a clever puzzle, and lots of dry, sardonic humour, mostly generated by the vast difference in the lives of aristocrats and just about everyone else.
The opening, which has a coach party visiting a reluctantly open-to-paying-peasants Stately Home, beautifully sets the stage for the gap between normality and life at a stately home. Having the coach party find the fresh corpse of a member of the household inside a suit of armour on display in the dungeon was a stroke of brilliance.
‘The Complete Steel’ is only 200 pages long and the case is solved within forty-eight hours which makes it a quick light read that I found very relaxing.
The plot has more twists than I expected and successfully mislead me about what was going on for most of the book and then delivered an ending that was both completely plausible and worthy of Scooby-Doo.
I think Catherine Aird’s tongue was firmly in her cheek as she wrote this but she still delivered a good mystery. She also educated me on who churls are and what is kept in a muniments room.
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