I was surprised to find this in a collection of rural mystery stories, but in fairness, it is the kind of thing that you would find in a small village – and very much the kind of mystery that will be talked about and remembered for years.
The entire story takes place in the village pub and centres on the events of a fortnight previously, when the annual Flower and Gardening Show was ruined by the intervention of some wandering livestock. It’s something you can almost imagine – a well-meaning farmer moves his cattle to a nearby field against popular decision that to do so on Midsummer Night will result in certain disaster. When popular decision is proved right, recriminations ensue.
In fact, it’s not until the local policeman – himself a keen gardener whose entry in the Flower and Gardening Show was itself trampled – lets slip that he believes the interconnecting hedge was sabotaged, do we actually get any hint of foul play. Who in the village would be so callous as to create a gap in the hedge – on show day? It’s the kind of thing that starts blood feuds that last generations.
This story is a complete joy. There is no murder, whether or not there is a crime is quite debateable, but there is certainly mischief and a good puzzle which is solved at the end. It’s told with gentle humour and plenty of affection which, after the seriousness of some of the stories I’ve read lately, comes as something of a relief. Living in a rural village, I can well believe something like this happening, being talked about, reported in the local paper and perhaps even raised at the Parish Council.
I loved this, it’s a wonderful little story well written that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading.