Never trust a conjuror with bad breath

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Time for another couple of crime stories featuring the Sixty Second Sleuth, Inspector Kenneth Braid. It never takes Braid longer than about a minute to solve a crime, which makes him an admirable policeman, even if highly unlikely ever to be featured in a TV adaptation.

Time for another couple of crime stories featuring the Sixty Second Sleuth, Inspector Kenneth Braid. It never takes Braid longer than about a minute to solve a crime, which makes him an admirable policeman, even if highly unlikely ever to be featured in a TV adaptation.

The Old Family Business, a new Inspector Braid mystery

"That's the odd thing, Inspector," said the Rev Arthur Pheasant. "The church was broken into, but nothing was taken. Who would go to the lengths of breaking and entering a church and then not burgling it?"

"You never know," said Inspector Braid. "Maybe it was a burglar who underwent a sudden conversion after entering, and saw the error of his ways ... The church is normally locked, is it?"

"Yes. It contains some very valuable medieval silver, and we can't get it insured if we don't lock up. But the only disturbance we found was in the vestry, the place where I keep my sermons, the parish records, that sort of thing. Someone has been going through all the papers and left it a mess. But again, nothing taken. Not even my sermons, alas! Look, it's in here."

He took them into an austere room where papers had been left untidily around. There was a book of births and deaths lying open. Braid glanced at it.

"It sounds an odd question, Reverend, but have you had any cases of people cleaning up graves or headstones recently?"

The vicar looked startled.

"Yes, as a matter of fact. A grave belonging to the Copdock family, neglected for years, was found beautifully cleaned up the other day."

Braid pointed to the open book. One of the entries was the death of Alfred Copdock in 1867.

"That's extraordinary ..."

"Not really," said Braid. "One of the fastest growing areas of crime is offences committed by people researching their family history. Genealogy is so addictive that people will go to any lengths to pursue it, even breaking and entering a locked church. They will also refurbish family memorials. And they will also hang around the scene of research, hoping to find more family details. I think the person we want is called Copdock and I think he is hidden in that cupboard over there."

And so he was.

The Breath of Suspicion, another new Kenneth Braid mystery

"He was a very good conjuror," said Mrs Ewing." But he was also a very good burglar. He took all my jewels! And I was in the house all the time and never noticed!"

It was a simple story. Mrs Ewing had hired an entertainer for her children's party. The man - Uncle Charlie - had arrived, all smiles and twinkles. He had asked to be alone for a while to prepare everything. He had then put on a terrific show and gone away. Later, she found that all her jewellery had gone with him.

"He was so nice and helpful!" said Mrs Ewing.

"Sounds like Bad Breath Bertie to me," said Comfort. "He was always sweet to the ladies."

"Bad-tempered burglars are a rarity," said Braid. "They all appreciate being welcomed in. But the fact that he was a good conjuror narrows it down. There are only about half a dozen on our lists who match the description. But which one? He used gloves and left no prints. He had his face painted like a clown, so he can't be identified. If only there was something ..."

"He even helped with the balloons," said Mrs Ewing.

"Putting them up, you mean?"

"No, blowing them up. There was several long thin ones I was having trouble with. He very kindly blew them up for me. Those ones over there."

"By golly, we've got him!" said Braid. He took the balloons down. He opened one gingerly and sniffed.

"Ugh!" he said.

"Bad Breath Bertie!" said Comfort.

"You send the other balloons to the lab for analysis and confirmation," said Braid. "I'll go and have a word with Bertie."

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