The title alone was enough to convince me that I’d found a book I wanted to read. What Robert Adams says in his brief introduction clinched it. “The real experts on crime are not the professionals but the criminals themselves. The Really Dreadful Crime Company sets out to fill the gaps left by the police and carries out its own unique, if not always strictly legal, methods of crime intervention. The next best thing to crime prevention is crime reduction, but if you can’t actually reduce it, at least you can try to bring about a better class of crime.”
Middle-aged Joan Johnson, a part-time private investigator, is mugged one day in her hometown of Hull, England. Getting absolutely no satisfaction from the excuse-making, “too busy” police, she sits down with her good friend Muriel and hatches a plan to make Hull a safer place for all its citizens. Reasoning that criminals know more about crime than the police, and that many criminals might want to leave crime, she proposes the following plan. She will found The Really Dreadful Crime Company and use criminals to investigate muggings, break-ins, harassments, crimes against women and other crimes the local police seem too busy to bother with. Though Muriel is dubious, the idea intrigues her. To Joan’s husband Harold, it is an accident waiting to happen.
The result is one of the most rollicking, hair-raising, funny crime novels I’ve read in many a year. Filled with plenty of action, two rival crime families – the Sleights and the Fiddlers – a bakery that employs ex-cons and serves as a front for the Crime Company, a host of loopy characters and incompetent cops, murder, romance and … The best thing to do is get yourself a copy, sit yourself down and enjoy a great adventure that will have you laughing throughout. I can see this yarn as a wonderful adventure / comic movie or TV series. I’d watch it, more than once.
For you Yanks, one of the crime bosses drives a luxury car called a "merc"; that's a "Mercedes", not a Mercury. I can't imagine anyone mistaking a Mercury (called a "Merc" in the USA) for a luxury car. It's (or was) the Ford product positioned between a Ford and a Lincoln.
A clear ***** read.