As I deal with a whodunnit here, I will keep the synopsis short and sweet. The plot of the book presents an old-fashioned murder mystery set in the days when life was simpler and gentlemen wore hats at any time of the night or day. Dame Agatha Christie would definitely feel at home and aprove.
A very religious, Bible-quoting policeman, called Malachi Glass, while patrolling his beat finds out that Ernest Fletcher was bludgeoned to death in his study. Everyone seems to be shocked and mystified about possible reasons of such a horrid murder – Ernest was old, rich, single, well liked and respected, although he also enjoyed an opinion of a ladies man. As usual, Ernest’s life, and his family’s too, come under close scrutiny; the police is especially interested in his nephew, Neville Fletcher, who, as a main beneficiary, inherited a vast fortune. Neville doesn’t make the police work any easier, though, teasing mercilessly Superintendent Hannasyde; even the morose PC Glass is unpleasantly surprised as Neville quotes back some Bible at him. Is it just an innocent play of a young, bored prankster or maybe a cunning trick of an intelligent murderer? Why did Ernest Fletcher keep the IOUs of his beautiful gambling neighbour in the safe? Why did she pay him a clandestine visit shortly before the murder? Will her sister, a monocle-wearing mystery writer, guess the identity of the culprit and help the police with the investigation? Any help will come in useful as soon enough a second murder is discovered, right under the nose of the furious Superintendent. Will there be a third one?
The sense of humour and witty dialogues are evidently the highlights of this whodunnit: best lines are passed among Superintendent Hannasyde and Sergeant Hemmingway but some of PC Glass’s quotes, although rather grim, have had their merit too. The mystery itself, although relatively trite at first glance, proved to be more twisted than I expected – I haven’t guessed the identity of the real murderer till the very end (mind you I am not good at it).I also appreciated the fact that the policemen, presented in the novel, were close to real people, with all these foibles, quirks and flaws; I must admit that aspect of the police force I missed in Agatha Christie’s books the most.
The story would have been more captivating, in my humble opinion, if only the late Ernest Fletcher had been presented as a younger and nicer man – a modern reader must wonder why any woman would get within ten meters of him. I was also surprised the character of his sister wasn’t explored more by the author who also happened to be a woman. The romantic thread seemed to me a bit of a stretch; it looked as if Ms Heyer were absolutely determined to feature a proposal in every single one of her books no matter whether it was probable or not. It was supposed to be a whodunnit, not a romance!
A light reading stuff for the summer without nasty surprises inside- it wasn’t bad but I wasn’t enchanted by it. It’s my first Heyer’s whodunnit, though, so I can’t say right now how it compares with the rest. However, I am likely to find out very soon – the second Heyer’s mystery is waiting on my shelves.