Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A Three-Pipe Problem by Julian Symons (Penguin Crime 1975)

‘But how did you discover it? I mean, the docks?’

‘I read this Observer colour supp. piece, you see, and it said all the obvious piaces are finished, a house in Battersea even costs a fortune, but around the East India Dock area there were still some of these perfect little squares -’

‘Lived in by the peasants, no doubt, with a loo out at the back -’

‘Exactly, and there was this perfectly dreamy little house, just a cottage, and Fabrina said it’d got terrific possibilities -’

Possibilities, I should think so.”

He listened gloomily to the exchange taking place between a couple with long flowing hair, both wearing bell bottoms and bright pullovers. Did the absence of make-up indicate their masculinity or the opposite, were their voices male or female? He found it impossible to say. The pub depressed him. It had been done up by the brewers, and in honour of its name they had turned it into a kind of military encampment. Reproductions of battle scenes were around the walls, regimental flags and scrolls took up other bits of vacant space, what had once been public and private bars were now called Sergeants’ Mess and Officers’ Mess. It was certainly not what it had been in Holmes's time, and he would infinitely have preferred a few villainous Lascars to the trendy young creatures who mixed with the tough-looking dockers. Not that the dockers seemed to mind either the desecration of their pub, or its part-occupation by these aliens. From the large central bar which was actually called the Parade Ground, Sher pondered on the superiority of past to present. He was jerked out of this reverie by the words: ‘That’s Joey, just come in.’

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