Sixty Second Sleuth lives up to his name

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The Independent Online

I am bringing you two entire crime novels today, featuring Inspector Keith Braid, the Sixty Second Sleuth, so called because it takes him about a minute to solve any case. That's why his novels are so short...

"Not Cricket, Old Boy", a new Inspector Braid mystery.

"What I can't understand is why anyone would want to burn down the cricket pavilion!" said the club secretary, Major Firth. "Especially when it's not the cricket season."

Inspector Braid stood and surveyed the smoking wreckage of Hovenden cricket club pavilion.

"Do you have a picture of the original building?"

"Yes, I do, as a matter of fact. Here's one taken only last week."

He looked at it. Nice building. Big scoreboard. Still had the score on it. 263 all out. Last man 0.

"Do you have the cricket score book?"

"Yes - luckily I had taken it home for safekeeping."

Braid looked at it. Last match of the season. 263 all out...

"Who's T Philpot?"

"Dr Philpot? He's in practice in town. Fancies himself as a leg-spinner and a batsman."

"Does he live very close?'

"Just down the lane, as a matter of fact. Why?"

"Tell me, Comfort," said Braid, turning to Sergeant Comfort, "if you lived near a cricket pitch, and went past it every day on the way to work, and saw the horrible message 'Last Man Out - Nought' at least twice a day, and you were the man they were talking about, wouldn't it drive you potty? Wouldn't you be tempted to do something about it?"

"Yes, sir, definitely," said Comfort.

"I think we'll pay Dr Philpot a little visit, Comfort," said Inspector Braid.

"If Looks Could Kill" - a brand-new crime novel featuring Inspector Braid, the Sixty Second Sleuth.

"He looked increasingly ill during his lecture, Inspector," said Mrs Barraclough, "and then he collapsed right at the end."

She dabbed her eyes. Mrs Barraclough was Professor Daventry's assistant, or had been until Daventry had succumbed on stage to a very quick-acting poison.

"So quick-acting," said Braid to his sergeant, Comfort, "that he must have taken the poison less than an hour previously. Therefore he must have taken poison DURING the lecture itself!"

"The glass of water on the lectern, sir?"said Comfort.

"We've looked at everything," said Braid. "The glass. His sweets. Everything he might have put in his mouth. Even his pen. Nothing."

And so they talked to several people who had been at the lecture, including a girl called Sandra who described Professor Daventry as a most disorganised person.

"We loved him, but he was all over the place. Notes disarranged, shirt coming untucked, and as for his spectacles...!"

"What about his spectacles ?"

"Oh, they were held together with sticky tape. And so dirty! He wouldn't use a proper cloth - oh no, he was always dampening them and rubbing them on his tie as he spoke! Everyone used to groan out loud, but he never noticed."

"Thank you, Sandra, you have been very useful."

As soon as they were alone again, Brad turned excitedly to Comfort.

"We must get the Professor's glasses tested!"

"Bit late now, sir, isn't it? He won't be needing them any more."

"Tested for poison, you fool! Don't you see? The murderer was someone who knew that the Professor licked his glasses before cleaning them. Therefore, put the poison on the glasses! It would make them look smeary. Better lick them, thinks the professor..."

"But who...?"

"I think Mrs Barraclough knows more than she lets on."

And so she did.