|Publication Date: 4 Jun 2015|
|Publisher: Marylebone House|
|Author: Kel Richards|
|ISBN-13: 9781910674178, 9781910674185|
The Corpse in the Cellar
The victim is in the vault of the bank alone, cut off by brick and steel from the rest of the world. Yet he has been stabbed from behind and the murder weapon has vanished.
A ‘locked room’ mystery – which would have baffled the cleverest sleuths of the Golden Age of detective stories – is tackled by the brilliant mind and larger-than-life personality of C. S. Lewis, beloved creator of Narnia and formidable defender of the Christian faith.
A tale that twists and turns in the tradition of the golden age of English murder mysteries like Agatha Christie. Add [the author’s] trademark humour and it's an entertaining baffler!
IT might seem a touch impertinent for a “veteran Australian journalist, bestselling author and broadcaster” to hijack the very real C S Lewis (known to his friends as Jack) as his fictional detective. Readers may feel, however, that writer Kel Richards could be forgiven as they join Jack, brother Warnie and young “scientific atheist” friend Tom Morris in 1930s Cambridgeshire where their holiday is interrupted by the discovery of The Corpse in the Cellar (SPCK, £8.99). The path to solving the seemingly “impossible” murder also offers opportunities for Jack to debate his newly-discovered theological truths with his atheist friend, resulting in a satisfying, many-faceted piece of holiday reading.
“Somewhere in Cambridgeshire, not far from the County of Midsomer” is the site of the action in Kel Richards’ The Corpse in the Cellar: a 1930s murder mystery (Marylebone House, £8.99; Tablet price £8.10). The oddness of this charming story is in the person of the chief investigator; CS “Jack” Lewis. When a walking holiday goes horribly wrong, the great man divides his time between solving a locked-room murder and explaining the tenets of the Christian faith to the young narrator.
The idyllic village on the jacket of The Corpse in the Cellar by Kel Richards gives no suggestion of horrors to come. Setting his novel in 1933, Richards boldly uses C. S. Lewis and his brother, Warnie, as leading characters, combining them with the fictional Tom Morris, pupil of Lewis and narrator of the tale, as the three set out on a walking holiday.
Accidents (the destruction of Lewis’s wallet in a fire) and the cumbersome procedures in the nearest village bank are almost cosmic to the modern reader, brain-washed as we are by the convenience and speed of modern systems. When the seemingly impossible murder occurs in the bank vault, Lewis’s powerful brain cuts through the fog of conflicting evidence.
Richards’s book is also a strong Christian polemic: Lewis is busy trying to convert his intelligent pupil Tom to follow his own route from atheism to belief. I’m not sure, however, of the readership that is being aimed at: both agnostic lovers of Agatha Christie and believing Lewis fans will be tempted to skip the religious dialectic, and some readers might find the over-use of adverbs to qualify speech – sagely, confidently, heartily, etc. – off-putting. They weaken a strong basic plot.