Sgt. Caleb Cluff, the no-nonsense Yorkshire copper created by pseudonymous Geoffrey Horne (1916-88), is resurrected by the British Library Crime Classics.
Cluff’s second case, originally published in 1961, begins when a courting couple’s tryst is interrupted by their discovery of a body on a cobbled street in the town of Gunnarshaw, where everyone knows everyone else and everyone knows what kind of woman Jane Trundle was. Cluff, a lone wolf who’s been recalled from leave to help overworked, underinspired Inspector Mole work the case, is under no illusions about the victim either, but he’s coolly determined to avenge her. Her young man, Jack Carter, swears he didn’t kill her—he didn’t even get her pregnant. Although there’s no evidence to back his statement up, Cluff, whose maverick attitudes toward authority and procedure seem to make him much more like American than British police officers, isn’t afraid to trust his own instincts and focus instead on Greensleeve, the chemist Jane worked for. Accompanied by his dog, Clive, whom no one would dream of separating from him, he makes the rounds of a surprisingly small number of witnesses and suspects, pondering the relations among them as he walks along, then reaches out to seize the killer, though not soon enough to prevent a second death.
Martin Edwards’ brief but informative Introduction notes that the Cluff stories inspired a BBC television series, and you can see why: North’s elliptical scene-setting and clipped dialogue are perfect for brief, understated segments on the telly, and they’re strikingly modern to boot.