Poirot may have had his little gray cells, but Chief Inspector Charlie Woodend’s got his big flat feet, and their liberal use has given Cloggin’ It Charlie (Death of a Cave Dweller, 2000, etc.) the devil’s own luck at solving cases hairier than his well-worn tweed coat. This time, though, that luck may change, as Woodend investigates a murder in Westbury Park, former estate of Sir Richard Sutton, now a company town run by British Chemical Industries for the convenience of its employees—a fractious and polyglot crew of demobbed Brits, German POW’s, Italian refugees, and Polish D.P.’s. The victim, ex-fighter pilot Gerhard Schultz, was unpopular not for his military exploits, but for his postwar ruthlessness as time-and-methods expert for BCI: the company had sat poised, just before his demise, to let the ax fall on the ranks of helpless shift workers. So the workers band together not so much to stonewall (nobody stonewalls Charlie Woodend) as to gently distract. Luigi Bernadelli jokes about wartime Italy, Karl Muller whispers of his search for God, Zbigniew Rozpedek offers Woodend vodka, and Mike Partridge just glowers. Meanwhile, the local constabulary, under pressure by BCI to solve this one quickly and painlessly, offers up a constant stream of hopeless leads (local tramp Fred Foley chief among them). But Woodend will work his way or no way, using common sense and uncommon grit to ferret out a killer.
Twists, turns, and a barrelful of red herrings fall by the wayside as Cloggin’ It Charlie lands right on the money.