Today’s review should entitle me to double points really, as my chosen title for Friday’s Forgotten Book this week actually has a murder set on a Friday! Not something I planned, but a pleasing coincidence nevertheless.
Murder strikes early in this tale, with Euphemia Pongleton meeting her grisly end on the stairs of Belsize Park underground station in chapter 1. Unsurprisingly she is not the most popular resident at the boarding house she resides at. There are also the niece and nephew to consider, especially the latter who spends most of the book acting as though in he is in the world’s shiftiest person competition and is really keen to win it. Inspector Caird is on the case, but the book primarily looks at events from the suspects and witnesses’ points of view, in particular the aforementioned nephew and the other people he embroils in his plans of fabrication. Amateur sleuthing comes from an array of motives and angles, with different purposes in mind, though it is a last minute arrival of information which correctly points the finger at the culprit.
Going into this re-read I had fairly pleasant memories of this book, yet today at any rate my views are somewhat tinged with peeved-ness. Despite two diagrams and a family tree no less, I wouldn’t say this mystery was purely a detective novel, as the plot is far more propelled by the suspects who are trying to ineptly disentangle themselves from their lies and in some cases some suspects create a lot of subterfuge for very little good reason. Perhaps this is what made the second half of the book drag somewhat and for me the book could have been shortened a bit. The way the truth comes out about the case probably won’t satisfy the regular vintage mystery reader either.
I certainly didn’t plan to do a grumpy review, as in fact the opening chapters were a delight. The unsympathetic nephew character did not have undue prominence for one, but more importantly I was intrigued by the setup of the crime itself and the unusual choice of murder weapon. The information we get about Pongleton’s death is also dosed out effectively in small snippets. I also enjoyed the characterisation of the scenes following the death in which the boarding house guests are subtly vying for Pongleton’s preferred seat or are keen to volunteer other guests to go talk to the police whilst they continue hearing the tantalising gossip. In many ways these scenes felt reminiscent of a murder mystery stage play.
Just the Facts Ma’am (Silver Card): Death by strangulation