Begun during Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon and finished some days ago, Tour-de-Force is my favorite Christianna Brand book so far and the best of the eight I’m reading to find out what gambits they illustrate. I was a little worried because on Amazon it only gets 3 stars whereas Heads You Lose and Fog of Doubt are both higher rated. I will never understand people. Inspector Cockrill is on a package tour of Italy and a tiny, fictional Spanish-Italian island nation which is run by a dictator and is far more interested in smuggling than justice. They don’t have fingerprint kits or medical examiners or any of that guff. They just pick the person they want to be guilty and trump up a case against them. They go through a number of people in the tour group this way. Inspector Cockrill and the group also go through a number of suspects. The trouble with books is you know it’s not the right solution when you’re only halfway through.
The tourists are an amusing bunch a former concert pianist who lost an arm, his long suffering wife, a famous writer, a fashion designer, Mr. Cecil, who desires the Spanish tour guide who desires an apparently rich single woman who clings to her purse as though it’s a security blanket, and the inspector. We get to know them a bit on their mad dash through Italy, but then the inevitable happens. Murder takes place on the island and they are stuck there for days trying to figure out the culprit and prevent any of them spending the rest of their lives in a medieval island prison.
It’s a bit corny sometimes with Cockrill believing he can get his thoughts across to the natives by adding -a to English words. But if you can ignore that, it is nice to know Americans are not the only bumptious travelers. I really enjoyed this one all the way through. I don’t remember any moments of what the characters did making no sense like many times in Fog of Doubt. And while this sort of ending usually drives me crazy, I think she actually wrote it well enough I ought to have guessed.