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No Corners for the Devil: Murder and Mystery in a Cornish Seaside Village    by Olive Etchells order for
No Corners for the Devil
by Olive Etchells
Order:  USA  Can
Carroll & Graf, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Ten months ago the Baxter family sold their house in Manchester to get away from a murder which occurred down the street. Their relocation to Cornwall, on the Roseland Peninsula, promised tranquility on a property which included a roundhouse and rental cottages. Their short-lived solitude is turned topsy-turvy, coinciding with the comment, 'No corners for the devil in a roundhouse, nor for witches' broomsticks. That's what they say, isn't it, madam?'

The family's younger son Ben and his friend Malachi traverse the Curdower beach daily, collecting litter and keeping the best of it in their 'secret den'. One particular morning, they find the body of a young girl washed up on shore. Detective Chief Inspector Channon investigates. He's 'broad and swarthy, his thick black hair streaked with grey. He spoke softly, with the Cornish intonation, scrupulously polite with his 'sir' and his 'madam'.' Assisting Channon is Detective Sergeant Bowles - competent but overzealous, tactless, and chauvinistic, Bowles likes working with the DCI well enough.

The victim is identified as Samantha Trudgeon, murdered by strangulation and a heavy blow. Samantha's parents own Blue Leaze farm, and were out of town when the incident occurred. Luke Baxter had given Samantha a ride home from the school's weekly disco the night before, and a witness heard them arguing. Rob Baxter is a database specialist for financial institutions, and a voluntary, part-time tutor of A level Computer Studies. Samantha was enrolled in Rob's computer classes. Malachi's dad, George Gribble, works part time at the Trudgeon farm.

Suspects include Luke, Rob, George, a man seen walking the beach path at the same time as Samantha, participants in a dart competition, a transvestite, and a cross-dresser. And there's another body, found by Mr. Trudgeon on the farm property. Etchells presents her cast of suspects so that the reader will not identify the murderer until the end. She blends a solid, plausible plot with strong characterizations, introducing new players at just the right moment. No Corners for the Devil is a beautifully written mystery.

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