The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude

I am now halfway through my 20 Books of Summer list and obviously not going to finish all of the remaining books by the end of the month, but I’m pleased that I’ve managed to read this one, The Sussex Downs Murder, as I’ve had it on my shelf for a few years now and could never seem to find the right time to read it. It turns out that summer was the perfect time, as the story takes place in July…

The novel opens on a Saturday evening with John Rother saying goodbye to his brother and sister-in-law and leaving their Sussex farm, Chalklands, to drive to Harlech in Wales for a holiday. He doesn’t get very far, however, and his car is found abandoned the next morning just a few miles away from the farm. John has disappeared, but there are bloodstains inside the car and signs of a violent struggle. Has he been killed? Kidnapped? Superintendent William Meredith is called in and when human bones are found in a delivery of lime from the Chalklands lime-kilns a few days later, it seems that he is dealing with a murder case.

In his careful, methodical way Meredith begins to investigate, examining every clue and interviewing every possible witness. He forms a theory almost immediately, but when a second crime occurs and proves him wrong, he is forced to think again, and slowly – too slowly for his Chief Constable who threatens to bring in Scotland Yard – starts to piece together what has happened.

John Bude, whose real name was Ernest Elmore, is a popular author within the British Library Crime Classics series, but this is the first of his books that I’ve read. Originally published in 1936, it’s the second Superintendent Meredith novel and I enjoyed it enough to want to read more of them. I liked Meredith, although we don’t get to know very much about his background or personal life – apart from some great scenes with his son, Tony – and I appreciated the way his thoughts are shared with the reader, so that we can follow each step of his investigations and see in which direction the clues are leading him. I also liked the Sussex setting; it’s not an area that I know, but there’s a map at the beginning and all of the towns and villages, chalk hills and rings of trees – are real places and geographical features.

My only problem with this book was that the solution to the mystery was far too easy to guess; I had my suspicions from very early in the story and was proved right. I don’t usually manage to solve the crime before the detective does, so I wonder if other readers found this one particularly obvious too.

This is book 10/20 of my 20 Books of Summer 2021

13 thoughts on “The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude

  1. Cyberkitten says:

    I have an itch to read ALL of the British Library Crime Classics! Now I just need to find the time [grin]. I do so love the ‘feel’ of classic British crime fiction. There’s something so….. comforting and comfortable about the way we used to commit fictional crimes…. [lol]

      • Cyberkitten says:

        I have a LONG way to go then. So far I’ve only read ‘Mystery in White – A Christmas Crime Story’ by J Jefferson Farjeon which was interesting if not exactly stellar. I do own 3-4 others though. Maybe I should start reading them!

  2. Lark says:

    There are several of Bude’s British Library Crime Classics that I want to read. It’s just finding the time. This one sounds like fun, even though you figured it out so early in the game. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      It was still fun watching Meredith solve the mystery even though I’d already guessed the solution. I’m looking forward to reading more by John Bude!

  3. BookerTalk says:

    I know I’ve read and enjoyed this but I can’t remember anything about the plot (had to look up my review). Interesting that you found the solution rather obvious because it seems from my review that I had difficulty keeping all the clues straight.

    • Helen says:

      I think I read something else with a similar plot recently (maybe an Agatha Christie?) which is probably why I was able to work it out. I almost never can!

  4. Jane says:

    I like Meredith too and I’m glad Tony’s in this one. I’m interested though that he’s in Sussex – I read the first one recently and at the end he’s promoted to the station in Carlisle, he’s a long way from home!

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