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Flaxborough Books In Order

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Publication Order of Flaxborough Chronicles Books

Coffin, Scarcely Used (1958)Description / Buy at Amazon
Bump in the Night (1960)Description / Buy at Amazon
Hopjoy Was Here (1962)Description / Buy at Amazon
Lonelyheart 4122 (1967)Description / Buy at Amazon
Charity Ends at Home (1968)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Flaxborough Crab (1969)Description / Buy at Amazon
Broomsticks Over Flaxborough (1972)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Naked Nuns (1975)Description / Buy at Amazon
One Man's Meat (1977)Description / Buy at Amazon
Blue Murder (1979)Description / Buy at Amazon
Plaster Sinners (1980)Description / Buy at Amazon
Whatever's Been Going On at Mumblesby? (1982)Description / Buy at Amazon

Flaxborough is a series of mystery novels by thriller and mystery author Colin Watson. He was born in Croydon in 1920 to parents of modest means. He went to Whitgift School, an institution established by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1596 to offer affordable and easy medical care and education to the less fortunate of the Lambeth and Croydon parishes. As a seventeen-year-old in 1937, he got a job working for the “Boston Guardian” as a cub reporter and had to commute for several miles to get to work. It as while he was working his beat around the market town of Lincolnshire and the small hamlets around it that he found the inspiration and material he needed to pen his bestselling “Flaxborough Chronicles.” The town of Flaxborough that is the setting of the novels is more of a composite of the city of Boston and the little towns surrounding it such a Horncastle and Sleaford. The first of the series was the 1958 published “Coffin, Scarcely Used” which opened the way to eleven more titles in the series culminating in “Whatever’s Been Going on at Mumblesby?” published in 1982.

After working as a journalist for several years, he retired and went back to Lincolnshire, to the small town of Folkingham where he made his new home. Reports from the local dailies assert that he spent much of his time in retirement learning photography, taking up music, and writing his novels in addition to hobbies in lapidary and silverwork. By the time of his death, he had made his name as one of the greatest thriller and mystery authors of his time, that garnered the respect of both critics and readers. He had the honor of winning the CWA Dagger two times in 1962 and 1967. During his long career, he wrote blockbuster titles that were the gold standard for how a crime novel ought to be written. While he is not popular in the contemporary mystery and thriller scene as he was when he lived, he is still one of the best the genre ever produced. For his efforts, Folkingham the town that he called home erected a memorial to him that still stands under an antique tree on the compound of one of the oldest minsters in the small town.

The “Flaxborough Chronicles” series follow the life and times of Inspector Walter Purbright. While he may not be the most brilliant detective in crime fiction, he provides an air of civilization and decency on which more whimsical and sometimes fanciful events may be strung. His exceptional understanding of the cases he has to deal with comes from a well thought out process of measured and polite inquiry. The decency of the Inspector is at the heart of the series thesis. Watson’s thesis is that the core of civilization lies with honesty, tolerance, and the decency of its guardians. As such, his lead character Purbright is committed to impartiality and refuses to be swayed by social position, special interests and his honorable stubbornness makes him the archetypal English hero. His demeanor and behavior suggest some sparky intelligence born of a quintessentially impermeable English foundation. He is a heavy man with brownish hair and often presents with a reverential manner that can be deceptive, particularly when he is dealing with the elite and aldermen of his town. In 199,7 four novels in the “Flaxborough Chronicles” were adapted into a TV series by the BBC titled “Murder Most English.”

“Coffin, Scarcely Used” the first novel of the “Flaxborough Chronicles” Series is set in the relatively crime-free town of Flaxborough. As such, people are shocked when a rich man in town, the proprietor of a newspaper is discovered dead. Initially, the authorities believe that it was an electrocution accident though Inspector Purbright is not convinced. Believing there is more to the case than meets the eye, he gets his Chief Constable to team up with him though the man does not believe in the Inspector’s theories. According to Purbright, the death of the paper man may be related to the death of a prominent councilor though that case had been closed with the cause of death declared natural causes. The only connection between the two men is the fact that they had both been friends of some powerful people in town including the lawyer Rodney Gloss and the undertaker Jonas Bradlaw. But the paperman had also had an affair with the dead councilman’s widow which gives the case a different dimension. It becomes even more convoluted when investigations reveal that the paperman may have had some secret sources of income unconnected to his publishing business. He had been a noble-looking man but could he have been involved in something illegal?

“Bump in the Night” the second novel of the series has detective inspector Purbright from Flaxborough called in to help in Chalmsbury, where there have been several attacks that have taken down monuments and landmarks. Given that the inspector has no connections or roots in town, he may not have the bias a local detective may be prone to. For instance, the police chief is the husband to Hilda the daughter of a councilman. Hilda has been rioting all over town having affairs with people such as Stan Biggadyke, a logistics millionaire that had been involved in a fatal accident the previous year where a girl had died. The logistics kingpin has never been an easy fellow to deal with ever since he was a grade school bully. But he is in good company as Larch the police chief also likes to use bullying tactics to get the information he needs from suspects. What no one is aware of is that Larch has a good understanding of explosives and that in recent weeks, he has been attending civil defense training. In the meantime, a huge quantity of explosives has gone missing and it is huge enough that it could solve one piece of the puzzle.

“Hopjoy was Here” the third novel of the “Flaxborough” series of novels opens to Inspector Purbright getting a strange letter. The letter invites him to the house of a resident who reports bizarre things happening at his home. When he arrives at the scene, he finds a bloody scene as it seems there had been a homicide and the body had been dissolved in acid at the bathtub. The two housemates Periam and Hopjoy seem to have disappeared. However, the inspector gets the help he needs when two federal agents come onto the scene and inform him that Hopjoy was an undercover federal agent. They are in town to ascertain the identity of the man in the bathtub and report back to their superiors. Purbright dives right into the investigation and briefs his team on how to conduct their investigations to locate the missing men and the killer. What he will find is a disturbing tale of a dangerous man who may just have gotten away with it.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Flaxborough

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