Reilly is an author I tried for the first time earlier this year and it is as usual only now that I am finally getting around to trying more of her work. Given the 60s/70s cover it surprised me this one was written so early, since I kind of had it in my head that she was a later writer. The title I read earlier this year was The Canvas Dagger (1956), which was a very enjoyable read, so I went into this book with positive expectations. Yet for all that, unfortunately this book didn’t end up working for me. Maybe I wasn’t quite in the right mood, but I also think a particular aspect of the plot also weakened it.
A journalist named Hogarth is waiting for Inspector Christopher McKee to turn up for drinks. Yet drinks get cancelled though when McKee rings about a man murdered inside a Rolls Royce, shot in the head, with his limbs tied up. The deceased was not killed in the car and was called Hamilton Knox, a wealth off man about town. Before the police arrive at his apartment, it seems someone else has got their before them. But what were they looking for? The valet is acting fairly suspiciously and McKee knows he is not saying all that he should. As the plot unfolds the valet will unfortunately regret his reticence. It does not take the police long to figure out where Knox went the night of the death and where he was killed, as both places are the home of Lawrence and Milly Tower. Hogarth knows the pair through his fiancée Joan, as she and Lawrence used to be engaged. Once the location of the murder has been established a myriad of facts and evidence pile up against the Tower couple and extended family. Of course they do not help themselves by acting incredibly suspiciously, illegally and rudely to the police. Though equally credit should also be given to Hogarth himself who clearly obstructs and delays justice in order to protect the Towers and Joan, the latter of whom works on her own initiative to save Lawrence from arrest, which unsurprisingly puts her into one heap of danger after another (foregoing the sensible of option of going to the police).
Where this synopsis ends hints at my main gripe with the book, as the plot is only spun out to 170 odd pages, due to various characters withholding very important information. Only as soon as this information is finally dragged out of them at the 9th hour, does McKee make any head way in the case. This whole go it alone approach made the second half of the book much more thriller-like and as a consequence after the initial setup of the crime and its intriguing victim, (who is concealing his real identity), the plot struggled to grab my enthusiasm and attention.
The only character I got on with and found to be likeable was McKee. As for the rest of them I found it difficult to connect with them and Hogarth and Joan in particular got on my wick excessively for their less than sensible behaviour. If solution of the crime wasn’t delayed by their behaviour so much I probably wouldn’t have minded, but since it is massively delayed it, it felt like this book could have become more of a short story if Hogarth and Joan weren’t such prats.
So yes this book didn’t leave up to the expectations I had garnered from my first Reilly read. I wouldn’t say I am never going to try her work again, but my expectations might not be quite so high. In a more generous frame of mind this book was only her fourth work so an argument could be made that these initial weaknesses are ironed out in later books, such as the one that I read.
Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt Item (Silver Card): Photograph