Mysteries solved in a minute

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The Independent Online

Most crime novels these days are endless, dreary psychologically intense casebooks. Not where Inspector Keith Braid, the Sixty-Second Sleuth, is concerned! He solves crime so fast that the longest novel about him is less than 400 words maximum. So here for are your weekend reading are no less than two complete Inspector Braid mysteries!

'That Hideous Bulb' - an Inspector Braid mystery

Pierre du Gratin, superchef and TV star, was dead. Of that there was no doubt. Slumped over the table of his office in "Le Raisin d'Etre", his award-winning restaurant, Pierre was as dead as yesterday's special.

"Apparently he stayed late last night to do some test cooking," said Sergeant Comfort, Braid's sidekick. "He was the only one here."

"Did he have many enemies?" Braid asked du Gratin's Number Two, Oscar.

"Many, many enemies," said Oscar. "We all hated him. He was a tyrant. He was arrogant, he was lazy, he was greedy, he was vain, he had a terrible temper..."

"There you are," said Braid. "The seven deadly sins. They are not called deadly for nothing. Just a moment. What is this?"

Braid had picked up some sort of onion from the desk.

"Probably something he was experimenting with," said Oscar. "He was always desperate to invent new dishes."

"Then that is your answer," said Braid. "He had done everything possible with onions. Now he was experimenting with these very similar things. They are daffodil bulbs. What he did not know was that daffodils are poisonous. Yes, he killed himself accidentally for the sake of cooking!"

"Lab report just come in," sir," said Comfort. "Cause of death: vegetable poisoning."

Braid permitted himself a small smile of triumph.

'Publisher's Block' - an Inspector Braid mystery

"She didn't have an enemy in the world," said Angela Tisbury, weeping. "Serena Capstock was loved by everyone in publishing."

"Knock off the tears," said Braid impatiently. "She's not dead. She has only received a letter bomb, that's all. Which didn't go off."

Serena Capstock was the queen of crime publishing. She had, for example, discovered SR Treadgold, now Baroness Treadgold, the pinnacle of British crime writing. Everyone loved Serena Capstock. Except, possibly, the person who had sent her a letter bomb.

"Had she rejected any novels recently?" said Braid.

"She was always rejecting novels. You have to, in this trade. For instance, this one which came in the other day from someone called Deborah Pimstone. She's always sending us stuff, and it's all very turgid, so we have to send it back..."

"Pimstone, eh?" said Braid. "Ring a bell, Comfort?"

"No, sir."

"Never mind."

Two hours later, they were in the sitting room of Baroness Treadgold, the pinnacle of British crime, etc etc.

"How lovely to see you, Keith," said the titled crime lady. "How can I help you?"

"When crime writers get very famous," said Braid, "they often write other novels under a pseudonym. But what if they send in novels under this new name, and get rejected? Would they be so furious as to take revenge on the publisher?"

"It's possible," said the baroness. "I am not sure it would work as a plot. Why do you ask me?"

"Because the name of your grand house is Pimstone Manor, and I have a sinking feeling that you may have been writing unsuccessful novels under the name of Deborah Pimstone."

Baroness Treadgold went pale, then puce, then crimson, then yellow, then blue. It was like watching the rainbow being invented.

"And if I have?"

Inspector Braid patted her on the knee.

"No more letter bombs, eh? There's a good girl!"

"What was all that about, sir," said Comfort later. "Was she responsible for...?"

"Never mind, Comfort. It's always a mistake for crime writers to get mixed up in crime. I fancy Serena Capstock will be getting no more death threats now."

And nor did she.