The Corpse In The Waiting Room By Pamela Godden

It’s always a great pleasure to discover an enjoyable detective novel by a writer new to you. This happened to me recently with The Corpse In The Waiting Room by Pamela Godden. Published in January of this year it is the first of a new series. Here’s hoping the next is well under way.

Set in 1920, the leading character Philip Tethering finds someone strangled on the day the body of the Unknown Soldier passes through Dover’s two stations. The platform is packed with townspeople come to glimpse the coffin, so almost anyone could have slipped into the waiting room and done the deed, an interesting premise.

The victim turns out to be a working woman from the village near the Tetherings’ comfortable middle-class home. Still rehabilitating from his war injuries, an initially reluctant Philip is drawn into investigating.

Pamela Godden is a very engaging writer. I really liked her Kent setting of Dover and its rural surroundings, immediately after the Great War. A resident of the town, she’s clearly knowledgeable about the area’s history and uses this to great effect. The story takes place from just before Armistice Day in November to the end of the year with some lovely descriptions of the autumn countryside slipping into winter.

I enjoyed her well-drawn characters too. Philip Tethering is interesting and likable with plenty of mileage. When the novel ended I was quite sorry to leave him and look forward to seeing how he develops. His family are appealing, they and the villagers he encounters are believable. The attitudes to class then prevalent are deftly shown with the gentlefolk and tradespeople we meet.

The plot is intriguing with no sign of motive for a way into the novel. It is fairly clued and gripping to accompany Philip Tethering as he works out the solution, narrowing down a long list of suspects. The motive of the murderer was a good piece of psychology and very apt for the time.

The novel has a similar feel to the atmospheric Inspector Rutledge series by Charles Todd (written by Caroline and Charles Todd) – without in any way being derivative. The Corpse In The Waiting Room is subtitled A Philip Tethering Mystery Book 1.
Highly recommended – I’m delighted to know there’s more to come.

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