Posts Tagged ‘Georgette Heyer’

The Unfinished Clue

General Sir Arthur Billington-Smith is stabbed to death in his study during a house party.  He has humiliated his wife in front of his guests, disinherited his only son and upset several of his guests as well as refusing to help his nephew financially.  It comes as no surprise then when someone snaps and stabs him.

Inspector Harding, from Scotland Yard, has to work his way through a great many secrets and lies before he works out the truth of the case and reveals the murderer.  As ever Heyer describes the tensions and relationships between the guests and relatives in masterly fashion and the reader can laugh at the conversation and attitudes of Lola – the Mexican dancer and Geoffrey’s unwelcome fiancée and the reason why his father has disinherited him. The treatment of the victim’s somewhat ineffectual wife will arouse the reader’s sympathy as well as irritation because she doesn’t stand up for herself.

I liked Fay’s sister Dinah and Inspector Harding himself.  It’s a pity Heyer didn’t write any more books featuring Harding.  I think Georgette Heyer’s crime novels are every bit as good as those of her more illustrious contemporaries, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.  I recommend it to anyone who likes Golden Age crime fiction.

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A Blunt Instrument

This is another case for Superintendent Hannasyde and Sergeant Hemingway to solve.  A man is bludgeoned to death in his study.  There are plenty of possible suspects including the corpse’s own nephew who is in need of money and the couple next door – Mr and Mrs John North – who may or may not have been more closely involved with the dead man than they’re prepared to admit to.  No one can find the `blunt instrument’ of the title and there doesn’t seem to be any time unaccounted for when the murder could have taken place.

Plagued by a Bible quoting PC and a constantly fluctuating collection of motives and suspects who keep changing their stories, Hannasyde and Hemingway are soon tearing their hair out.  An apparently straightforward case becomes more impossible by the minute.

I have now read all Georgette Heyer’s mystery novels and they’re all well worth reading – carefully plotted with fascinating characters and backgrounds.  They can hold their own with the best of the Golden Age detective story writers.  If you enjoy Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Gladys Mitchell then you will enjoy Georgette Heyer as well.

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Duplicate Death

A bridge party results in the death of Dan Seaton-Carew who turns out to have been an extremely unpleasant character.  It will be fairly obvious to the modern reader that the victim was involved in the drugs trade though it would not have been as obvious to a reader in the 1950s.  Mrs Haddington – in whose house the murder is committed – is nasty to her staff and her friends alike.  Her daughter Cynthia is a silly empty headed socialite who her mother is trying to marry off to the highest bidder to secure her own place in society.

Chief Inspector Hemingway is soon on the case though the more he digs the more suspects he finds and the more unpleasant the main characters appear to be.  This is a well plotted story with some interesting – though not terribly likeable – characters.  There are plenty of red herrings scattered about and plenty of clues though I have to admit I didn’t work out who the first murderer was until very close to the end of the story.

I think the book needs to be read in the context in which it was written rather than immediately being condemned as dated and irrelevant.  Life was different in the mid 1950s.  I enjoyed it and found it worth reading.

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No Wind of Blame

Wally Carter seems a not particularly likeable guy though nothing really bad is known against him.  He lives with his wife – the well off Ermyntrude, step daughter Vicky and Cousin Mary.  They couple have  many friends and acquaintances in the nearby village.

There is some friction between Ermyntrude and her husband chiefly because of his friends, who she dislikes, and his excessive drinking.  Wally doesn’t like his wife’s house guest – the dubious Russian Prince Alexis and suspects him of designs on his wife and her money.

The plot is complex and there are many suspects – all of whom have a motive for wishing the victim dead and nearly all of whom have the opportunity to carry out the killing.  The dialogue is crisp and amusing and the characters are well drawn and interesting.  Unlike some crime novels there is only one murder so the reader doesn’t get the chance to whittle down the suspects in that way.  The local CID are baffled and Scotland Yard are soon called in, in the person of Inspector Hemingway – who sees further through a brick wall than most.

As might be expected of a book written during the Golden Age of British detective fiction the book is well written and the dialogue always convincing as are the plot and the characters.  If you like your crime novels with little or no violence then this is one worth trying.

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Detection Unlimited

A tennis party is followed by a murder and it seems as though everyone at the tennis party has some sort of motive for committing the murder.  The corpse is the singularly unlikeable Samson Warrenby and the only person who seems upset by his death is his niece Mavis.  There are many secrets to be revealed by the amusing and observant Chief Inspector Hemingway before the murderer is finally caught and unmasked.

As ever the characters are well drawn, the dialogue believable and the plot sufficiently complex to keep the reader guessing until fairly close to the end of the story.  First published in the 1950s the book reveals a world and attitudes which have all but disappeared more than fifty years later.  I recommend this author’s mystery novels to anyone who likes to pit their wits against the author and try and work out who did it before the police discover the villain.

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Why Shoot a Butler?

Frank Amberley – visiting his uncle and taking an ill advised short cut – finds a man dead in his car on a country road.  Naturally, being a respectable citizen – he informs the police.  But he omits to tell them that there was a woman – Shirley Brown – standing beside the car.

What follows is a complex plot with many twists and turns which reveals some secrets which many people would prefer to keep hidden.  Amberley is asked to investigate the murder by the Chief Constable as he has had some success unravelling a previous criminal case.

I found the book intriguing and I didn’t guess exactly what was going on.  The characters are interesting and believable and the villains are suitably creepy.  The ending was exciting as it was a race against time.  A very enjoyable detective story of a traditional type and I recommend it.

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Behold, Here's Poison

Gregory Matthews is found dead in bed.  His doctor thinks he’s probably died of a heart attack and is prepared to sign a death certificate to that effect until Gertrude – the deceased’s sister insists on the death being reported to the coroner.  All the members of Gregory’s family have a possible motive for murdering someone who turns out to be thoroughly obnoxious.

This is an ingenious story which will keep you guessing right until the end.  The nature of the poison is revealed very early on and there are many red herrings cleverly planted.  How the poison was administered is not revealed until the very end of the book and I doubt most readers will guess the method.  Scotland Yard is on the trail in the phlegmatic person of Superintendent Hannasyde and his sidekick Sgt Hemingway, but at first it seems as though the case may defeat them.

This book is well written and the characters are believable.  There are enough suspects to keep most readers guessing and there is no on the page violence – which makes a refreshing change in the 21st century where violence sells.  It was written in the 1930s but is still very readable today.  Heyer’s detective novels stand comparison with the best of the Golden Age writers – Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers and Margery Allingham – and if you like them you will like this book.

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