Murder erupts quickly onto the page in this story. One night, Dorothy Nicholls and her mother receive a phone call from Harry Dodd, saying he is unwell and needs a lift home. When they get to him, he has been stabbed in the back and he dies by the time he returns to his bungalow. Yet why do these two women delay calling the police? The answer to this is quickly surmised, given this trio’s unusual living arrangements. It seems Harry was chucked out by his wife and family when he had an affair with Dorothy. His ardour for her soon cooled, yet a hurried divorce, sees him letting Dorothy and her mother keep house for him. It seems he now leads a very quiet and humdrum life, but Inspector Little-John soon shows otherwise… Yet be careful how quickly you make a judgement or draw a surmise, as never has it been truer in a mystery novel, that not all is as it seems…
This story is very much in keeping with my last Inspector Little-John read, in that it is another success. For starters I think Bellairs setups up the familiar trope of a marital affair and its consequences, in an interesting manner. It is intriguing to see how the different characters react to Harry and what they think of him, in light of what he did. For a vintage crime novel, I think we get a more complicated depiction of a man who has cheated. There is no two-dimensional vilification or exoneration. Additionally, those who have read other books by this author, will be glad to know this piece continues Bellair’s use of gentle comedy when it comes to characterisation. The coroner in this story is especially well done in that respect.
I also think Bellairs creates a mystery, which becomes much bigger and more intricate than you expect. There are a number of tantalising clues and pieces of information to decipher, such as the bird seed and a beer bottle cap and I enjoyed how the plot kept moving in unexpected directions. The further deaths after Harry’s, are certainly used to great effect in developing the story. I did spot the guilty party early on, but I think that was through a hunch, more than anything else. Nevertheless I found this a very involving mystery and look forward to trying more by this author.
Source: Review Copy (Agora Books – Release Date: 13th June 2019)
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