25 October 2018
Don’t be a victim.
By Miss Jane Chin
Shhh, yes, it is me, Chin Chin, your favourite writer until those cultureless oiks who call themselves editors banned me over that incident at the party. “You will never darken our newsprint again” they shouted, while showing me the door. Ha, an empty threat unless they improve on their ability to spot an assumed name.
But that isn’t the real reason behind the “Miss Jane”. Something quite different gave rise to that and, at the risk of giving you sleepless nights, I have to tell you that your correspondent has been in very considerable danger.
It all started a couple of weeks ago. A van drew up outside my next-door neighbour’s house and furniture and possessions began to be packed into it. At first, of course, I was delighted. No more of their teenage son playing records in the evening. No more of their ridiculously over-planted garden making mine looked like a war zone. Goodbye and good riddance, I thought. But then I became less certain. Perhaps the new people would be worse. Perhaps they would be hippies or criminals or rock musicians. The only answer was to go down to the Dog and Duck and make a few discreet enquiries.
The news which greeted me there could not have been worse. The man was a top detective with the local police force and you know what that means. No, not that I will be caught out in some nefarious criminal enterprise. I am much too law-abiding for that. The real risk is much worse. Having an ace detective in the neighbourhood greatly increases the chances of my being murdered.
Look at the village of Midsomer, for example. It is in the middle of the English countryside, somewhere which ought to be a haven of peace and tranquillity. And yet it is not. The presence of DCI Barnaby has hexed it and people are murdered there every week. Quite apart from the risk to the citizens, life insurance premiums must have gone through the roof. But it is no isolated example. Oxford and Cambridge are quite similar universities and one would have expected the murder rate to be about the same. But that would be to overlook one thing. Morse and Lewis live in Oxford and the result is that death stalks the very streets. If you are not killed with a blunt instrument, it will probably be strychnine. One could go on and on. The effect of Bergerac on the Jersey crime figures. The effect of Jane Marple on St Mary Mead. Everywhere you look,the very presence of a top-class detective pushes up the murder rate. If the government locked up the detectives, rather than locking up the criminals, crime waves would soon be a thing of the past.
I had plenty to think about on my way back to the pub and,what is more, I had plenty of time to think about it. That is because I took a very circuitous route back to my house. After all, in how many cases is the victim bludgeoned on the way home? The only effective protection is to come home by a different route, although even then, as there is the risk of getting bludgeoned by mistake for somebody else, you are safest if you sing out loudly as you walk. I’ve often been told that my singing voice is particularly distinctive and from the way people called out as I passed their houses just before midnight, I think that that fact may have struck them too.
It was a great relief to get home and to make myself a cup of instant coffee. Not from the open jar, of course. The new vicar (or at least, he said he was the new vicar) had called round in the afternoon and I had left him alone for a couple minutes in the kitchen. No, a new jar was required, still sealed by the manufacturer. That was the thing.
Still, precautions only take you so far. Eventually I would make a slip and the bludgeon or the cyanide would get home. It was only a matter of time. Perhaps the answer was to move house before disaster struck. But then quite a different solution occurred to me.
I have read enough crime books to know that the detective hardly ever gets killed. Generally, he or she is the central character and a sudden death would make it difficult to run a lucrative sequel. If I could become a detective myself I would be fairly safe.
Becoming an ace detective is more difficult than you might think. I am too old to join the police, so I would have to take as my model one of the gifted amateurs. Sherlock Holmes was out of the question. To be like him you would need a sidekick, a medical man, preferably with some experience in the Far East. I thought for a moment of Old Jim who does the first aid for the Scouts, but it didn’t really wash. I couldn’t see him bring his revolver on a particularly dangerous assignment in an opium den.
There is the Lord Peter Wimsey model, of course. At first sight that looked promising, as I have always suspected that my blood is rather bluer than it appears. But to be like Lord Peter, you have to be knowledgeable about so many things: an expert on books, an expert on wine, a superb cricketer, a fine classicist, a discerning musician. If I tried to be like him, I would spend so much time practising that I’d never get round to detecting anyone.
So who does that leave? Father Brown? Too Catholic for me. Hercule Poirot? There can hardly be room for another famous Belgian. Dupin or Maigret? Will Frenchmen be able to work here after Brexit? Philip Marlowe? Too laconic. Which just leaves the heroine of St Mary Mead, someone who can deduct a crime while stirring a cup of tea. What a glorious model to follow. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the new doyenne of detective work. I present to you Miss Jane Chin.