Calamity in Kent is narrated by a journalist who happens to stumble across an amazing scoop — a really unique murder case — while recuperating at the seaside. In a further amazing stroke of luck, the Scotland Yard man assigned to the case is someone he already knows, and they swiftly strike a bargain to help each other. Thus does Jimmy manage to inveigle himself into the investigation, and provide some of the key pieces of evidence… while phoning it all in to his paper, of course.
I didn’t much like Jimmy, really, and the pile-up of coincidences that made the story run right from the start were annoying. Still, as a locked room mystery, I found it entertaining enough, and of course, I wasn’t picking up a classic crime novel expecting complex motivations and realistic plots! For what I expected, it delivered: a puzzle of a mystery, the pieces to put it together, and a Golden Age-typical ending where all’s well at the end. I know that sounds like damning it with faint praise, but I don’t think all of these crime novels are intended to be works of art. They’re entertainment, and that’s what you get.
(There certainly are crime novels which are works of art, and novels in this series of reissues which are better than others — E.C.R. Lorac’s always have a finer touch about them, for instance. But entertainment is a worthy end too.)
It’s perhaps not my favourite of the series, and I don’t think I loved Rowland’s other novel in the series either, but I wouldn’t sniff at reading another of Rowland’s books if it gets brought out in one of these editions.