My thanks to Books Go Social and NetGalley for a review copy of this one.
The Custard Corpses is a historical mystery/police procedural set in the 1940s and involving a cold case. Our story opens with Chief Inspector Sam Mason—not serving in the war due to an injury—who is visited by Rebecca McFarlane whose brother Robert had been found dead in mysterious circumstances 20 years earlier when he was only 7. The case was from a time when Mason was a rookie. In charge was his Chief Inspector Fullerton who had left no stone unturned, but had still been unable to solve it; the failure preying on his mind till his death after he retired. Rebecca has been seeking updates regularly but on this visit has brought with her a newspaper report she chanced upon, of another cold case. The case dates back to three years after her brother’s and the details are very similar. Mason is surprised because the station had sent out notices regarding Robert’s case but had received no reports of similar cases. But the lead is promising and he is determined to follow it up. He feels especially strongly about the matter because of Fullerton’s efforts as well as since the victim was known to his son. Tracking his new lead in Weston, he soon finds that not only is this other case similar, but there were also others. We follow Mason and his constable O’Rourke (for a time joined by a Scottish constable, Hamish) as they painstakingly gather information, compare details, and attempt to work out who was responsible for these dastardly crimes.
This was a bit of a mixed read for me as there were aspects, particularly the plot and the way Mason and O’Rourke piece together the puzzle that I really enjoyed but other elements that were not as satisfactory. When I started the book, the prologue (which definitely leads one to expect something creepy) captured my attention but at the same time I found the writing—in places the expressions used and language felt a touch too modern for time period (like ‘sicko’ for instance)—was taking away from my enjoyment a little.
But once we get into the thick of things, as details begin to come to light, more cases are revealed, I was once again completely absorbed. It was interesting that it is not Mason but his wife who finds the most important clue. I really enjoyed the process of investigation, with Mason and O’Rourke making various charts, comparing drawings and following clues. The murders themselves were rather unsettling so the case has a pretty creepy feel as well. Another aspect I enjoyed was the ‘Custard’ connection about which it won’t be fair to write any details but I will say, it was well done, creative and different.
While the investigation and build up, and even the whodunit were enjoyable, I felt at the end that the explanation, the ‘why’ as well as part of the connection between the events of the prologue and what we learn later were not as satisfactory, which made it feel a little flat for me.
But still overall, this was enjoyable read, especially for the plot and the interesting title and how that works out in the story. 3.75 stars!