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Coffin, Scarcely Used (Flaxborough, #1)
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Buddy reads > Coffin, Scarcely Used by Colin Watson - SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 9648 comments Mod
In the respectable seaside town of Flaxborough, the equally respectable councillor Harold Carobleat is laid to rest. Cause of death: pneumonia.

But he is scarcely cold in his coffin before Detective Inspector Purbright, affable and annoyingly polite, must turn out again to examine the death of Carobleat’s neighbour, Marcus Gwill, former prop. of the local rag, the Citizen. This time it looks like foul play, unless a surfeit of marshmallows had led the late and rather unlamented Mr Gwill to commit suicide by electrocution. (‘Power without responsibility’, murmurs Purbright.)

How were the dead men connected, both to each other and to a small but select band of other town worthies? Purbright becomes intrigued by a stream of advertisements Gwill was putting in the Citizen, for some very oddly named antique items…

This is the first in the Flaxborough series, a new one for the group and we hope you will join us in discussing it.

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8611 comments Mod
I was not quite sure how to take the solution to this because so many characters were involved in it - not so much a case of whodunit, as whodidn't? I certainly didn't guess the twist involving Harold!

Seemed a bit unlikely that quite so many bizarre plots would be going on at once, although I suppose that is also often the case in Midsomer Murders too.


Sandy | 2637 comments Mod
I thought the title could have been a giveaway that corpse #1 didn't use a coffin for long. Or, given the randomness of titles, it could have meant nothing. I remember pondering 'Police at the Funeral' and finding no connection between title and story.


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 696 comments An added enjoyment was that the clue to the advertisments lies in a little known rule of English: "The reason for Tolkien’s mistake, since you ask, is that adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out. And as size comes before colour, green great dragons can’t exist."

Forsyth, Mark. The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase (Kindle Locations 623-627). Icon Books. Kindle Edition. I'll leave the plug, since it's a book I would recommend to anyone who likes words, and the way they fit together for effect.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8611 comments Mod
Sandy wrote: "I thought the title could have been a giveaway that corpse #1 didn't use a coffin for long ..."

It's a clever title - I think you've got it with that! And it also sounds like the mysterious "antiques" ads.


message 6: by Judy (last edited Dec 18, 2018 09:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8611 comments Mod
Rosina wrote: "An added enjoyment was that the clue to the advertisments lies in a little known rule of English: "The reason for Tolkien’s mistake, since you ask, is that adjectives in English absolutely have to ..."

I read something about this a while ago and thought it was very interesting. I was thinking, though, that I'm sure I've heard phrases where exceptions occur - I've found a discussion of this online, and, interestingly, "yellow rectangular" or "rectangular yellow" is one of the phrases discussed, very similar to the knife in Forsyth's passage.

According to this discussion, there's an anecdote that the seven-year-old Tolkien was corrected by his mother for writing a story about a "green great dragon" and told it must be a "great green dragon." Just realised this is referred to in your quote, Rosina - sorry, I wrote this post late in the evening and am re-editing when awake. Fascinating that he was interested in dragons at that age, if true!

https://english.stackexchange.com/que...


message 7: by Judy (last edited Dec 18, 2018 09:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8611 comments Mod
I see the discussion also points out that "big bad wolf" is in the *wrong* order, with size before opinion! I will hope to read Forsyth's book.


Pamela (bibliohound) | 334 comments I quite enjoyed this one, it was quirky but quite witty. The makeshift brothel in the surgery was crazy. I was quite pleased that I spotted the significance of the initials in the antiques advertisements, but I'm not surprised I didn't work out the murders at all!

I'd definitely read more by Colin Watson, these are good fun.


Susan | 9648 comments Mod
Good to hear you enjoyed it, Pamela. Yes, let's add it to our Buddy Read list of never ending series :)


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