Welworth Garden City in the 1940s is a forward-thinking town where free spirits find a home – vegetarians, socialists, and an array of exotic religious groups. Chief among these are the Children of Osiris, led by the eccentric High Prophet, Eustace K. Mildmann. The cult is a seething hotbed of petty resentment, jealousy and dark secrets – which eventually lead to murder. The stage is set for one of Inspector Meredith’s most bizarre and exacting cases.
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed reading this. ‘Death Makes A Prophet’ has to be my number one British Library Crime Classic, it’s entertaining, witty, full of human observation and of course, there’s a good mystery too!
Our setting in Welworth Garden City, home to the cult of Coo. It’s a trendy new town, full of trendy people living fashionable lives in their mock-Tudor, mock- Italian, mock-Georgian homes
“A very high percentage of the Welworth elite are not only vegetarians, but non-smokers, non-drinkers and non-pretty-much-anything-that-makes-life-worth-living…”
I really enjoyed the look at Welworth life and John Bude’s observations of its inhabitants. Garden Cities were fairly new at the time this was written, so it’s interesting to see an author’s view of these new towns and the people who live there. My imagination took me to Letchworth Garden City, due to the similarity in name and because it’s near where I live, I’ve often admired the buildings and general look of the town.
The focus of the tale is on the highest-ranking members of Coo, it’s founder and High Prophet, Eustace, it’s rich benefactor Mrs Hagge-Smith and Prophet-in-Waiting, Peta Penpeti who “wears his fez at a jaunty angle.” There is to be a Children of Osiris summer convention in the grounds of Mrs Hagge-Smith’s country manor and of course, there could be no greater setting for murder!
“I was granted an astral manifestation of it, my dear Eustace. Rows and rows of delightful tents with all our happy and devoted children wandering among them.”
The murder doesn’t actually occur until half way through the book but with the first half, John Bude has painted such a detailed and descriptive picture of our characters that by the time the double murder happens, we know the ins and outs of Welworth life and of the Coo members. I like crime novels written this way, you feel like you know everybody and it makes you feel a part of the mystery.
Nefarious schemes, red herrings, suspicious characters, witty writing and a cult gathering are all elements that create a fantastic read. ‘Death Makes A Prophet’ made me chuckle a lot and every page was a pleasure to read.
BOOKISH CORNER RATING – 5/5 STARS
John Bude was the pseudonym of Ernest Elmore (1901-1957), and author of the golden age of crime fiction. Elmore was a co-founder of the Crime Writers Association, and worked in theatre as a producer and director.
‘Death Makes A Prophet’ is out now in paperback published by The British Library. With thanks to Abbie at the British Library for my review copy.
If you enjoyed ‘Death Makes A Prophet’ then these will be to your liking as well:
‘Family Matters’ by Anthony Rolls
‘Verdict of Twelve’ by Raymond Postgate
‘The Cheltenham Square Murder’ by John Bude