This is the last of the Wade novels I got in a lucky charity shop find earlier this year and I am pleased to say that I am ending on a high note. The book opens with a horse racing event, the Royal Cup, and Captain Charles Rathlyn has bet his all on his horse, Silver Eagle, desperate for a win which will set him back up again financially. This is not to be though as his horse doesn’t win and faced with having to sell up, it seems more than fortuitous that Kate Waygold, the widower whose horse actually won the race, wants to employ him as her racing manager. Things look even better for him when marriage is on the cards. Yet marital bliss doesn’t last for long when Rathlyn falls in love with a younger woman and you can’t be surprised that the police are fairly suspicious when Mrs Rathlyn falls over the gallery balustrade one night. Rathlyn says she fell whilst sleep walking. But did she really? Yet to be fair to Rathlyn he is not the only suspect and the mystery becomes even more complexing when there is a second death.
First off, Wade recreates the county racing set milieu really well and this is something which also comes up in the characterisation. As with many of Wade’s other novels we are given ambiguous central characters who we are not entirely are deserving of our sympathies. After all this book is littered with characters who are on the make one way or another. Then again the economical setting of the novel is rather bleak, portraying the county classes as struggling with post war taxation. In fact we get a rare cultural/political reference on the first page of this novel when Wade writes that:
‘The brightness of the early morning might have helped to this, but there was no doubt that a brighter and more hopeful spirit was in the air now that Winston was back in power again. Many people who had ‘given it all up,’ or were on the verge of doing so, now felt that life might be worth living, after all.’
I would also this is a mystery which is built upon its characters, seeing the direction their relationships are taking before the first death occurs. Wade definitely uses the second death in the story to great effect causing further mystification, as it would have been a poorer novel if the story had only the first death to contend with.
Whilst this is not a novel which radically changes the genre, it was superbly entertaining novel, doing what every good mystery novel should do. It also has, I must say, a killer last line.
Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt Item (Silver Card): Any Other Animal
The Puzzle Doctor at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel blog has also reviewed this book here.