Burnt Offering (1955) by Richard and Frances Lockridge

Whilst the Lockridges are probably more well-known for their Mr and Mrs North series, they also wrote a 22 book long series featuring Captain Heimrich. The first one I tried in this series, The Client is Cancelled (1951), was okay but I struggled to enjoy the central characters, Pooh and Oh-Oh (don’t ask), and found the police investigation somewhat underwhelming.

However, I would say that the Lockridges start much more successfully in this book. No oh-ohs for a start. This tale is situated in the town of Van Brunt, a place becoming more and more populated by commuting and/or summer dwellers. Heimrich is there on a visit to his niece and what better way to entertain a visiting uncle than take him to a town meeting! The bone of contention at the meeting is the proposal to change the size of land required for building a house on, with a cohort of inhabitants, led by the chairman Orville Phipps, keen for this to go ahead, no doubt with extensive property development in mind. Unsurprisingly not everyone is in agreement, but this issue is put to one side when the local fire station is found to be on fire. Eventually the blaze is got under control but the town is certainly in for a surprise the next morning when a partially burnt body is found in the ruins. No prizes for who this person might be… Heimrich soon uncovers that the death was not an accident but there are still many questions to find answers to: How and when did the body get there? How did the fire start in the first place? And that all important whodunit?

Overall Thoughts

I found the first half of this book to be enjoyable. The pace is good and we are given an interesting and unusual mystery to unravel and the writers set up an intriguing witness: a drunk youth who may or may not have seen something important whilst under the influence. Heimrich even becomes livelier and the investigation has a more central feel, without other protagonists to steal the limelight. You can however anticipate my next sentence, which does indeed begin with, but. But unfortunately the second half of the book undoes the strength of the first. Heimrich’s speed goes down a gear and the case seems to function by little more than osmosis. The solution which doesn’t seem very well grounded is only brought into being by a dramatic sequence of events all set within a stormy night. I think this felt all the more frustrating due to how good the puzzle was initially set up and I am left wondering whether a different type of central detective might have ameliorated this predicament. Oh well at least it was a quick read and didn’t have any painfully irritating characters in. I am hoping for better luck with my next read C. S. Forester’s The Pursued.

Rating: 3.75/5

Just the Facts Ma’am (Silver Card): Crime Involved Fire/Arson

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