Today’s read opens with a miserable wet and stormy night at Polferry. Ralph Trenchard and Percy Banner have taken refuge with Banner’s friend Dr Richard Hale-Storford, after they get into difficulties with their boat. Whilst these three are talking and drinking in the study, the rest of the household have gone to bed. Eventually Storford shows his guests to their rooms by lamp light, yet a horror awaits them when one of them sees a dark wet substance coming from underneath Richard and his wife, Eve’s bedroom door. On investigating the room Eve is found dead, her throat cut. Yet the police investigation does not get very far. Except from the study all doors and windows are locked and two Great Danes have run of the house, which in itself is fairly inaccessible. Whilst it might be a reasonable assumption to believe one of the four other people who went to bed at the same time as Eve did the deed, there is no evidence pointing at anyone of them. Gethryn is consulted but even he says to chalk up the case as a loss and soon goes off to Switzerland. However in the months which follow, two of the four most likely suspects die due to accidents and the life of a third has nearly been lost three times. Their fiancé is keen to avoid further attempts, believing they are connected to the earlier death of Eve. Whilst there is an easy explanation for why the suspects might be dying, it still remains to be seen whether Gethryn will discover the truth behind what really happened to Eve…
I have not been having much luck with my Friday’s Forgotten Book choices this month. The book does start very well though, fast paced, straight to the point with a good dose of atmospherics. The characterisation is on the light side but the snappy writing style makes up for it. However, the good times don’t last. I think this is firstly because we don’t get first-hand experience of the police investigation into Eve’s death. For the first 70 odd pages, (which is nearly half way into the book), we, like Gethryn, have to rely on second hand information. Combining this with the fact that very little new information comes out of the various discussions and events, means that Gethryn and his cohorts have to almost tread water, having long simplistic chats where it takes them a month of Sundays to reach obvious truths. You might say that this is all a decoy, but in terms of the secondary deaths the answer is not particularly dazzling, though it takes them long enough to confirm it, with many thriller like pursuits – in fact in some ways I wonder whether Macdonald was wanting to parody thriller tropes. As to the death of Eve, it is considered to be an impossible crime, yet the final solution is a little disappointing. Given the initial crime setup, I had been expecting an intricate and complex mystery, but unfortunately it was not to be. So if you’re wanting to give Macdonald a go I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one. Fingers crossed my next FFB title will be a better read.
Just the Facts Ma’am (Gold Card): Retired from or in the armed forces
The Rasp (1924)
The Noose (1930)
The Rynox Mystery (1930)
X v. Rex (1933)