The book begins with John Lumsden, a man of several affectations:
‘His stance was slightly self-conscious – though there was no one around to see him. His interest in the board was something of a pose, too, for he was rarely able to solve these chess problems from the Guardian on his own. But he liked to feel he was the sort of man who tried.’
He is an elderly artist and as he sits down to his evening meal, he hears footsteps walking up the drive. Who is it? The narrative then moves to Kathie Bowen, John’s housekeeper returning to the house later that night. It seems Kathie is to become more than his housekeeper and she is looking forward to being free from her financial worries. Yet of course when she arrives home, she finds John has been strangled. Suffice to say this is a mystery novel which gets down to business pronto. Chief Inspector Charles Blair of Scotland Yard is called into investigate and he soon has three prime suspects: a nephew, a protégé and a fiancée. But which one is it?
I wouldn’t say this is the most complicated of mysteries, the reader will soon develop a number of theories, though the narrative could go either way until nearer the end. Although it has a simple plot, the crime itself is quite intricate, involving a tight time frame, as well as iron-cast alibis. The evidence in terms of fingerprint and telephone calls is also quite slippery and not so easy to work out, as Blair discovers. Things are not quite so crystal clear. The concept of people being framed, is unsurprisingly important to the case and Garve plays around with the idea quite well.
Blair and his sergeant make for an enjoyable pair to read about as Blair discusses his ideas with his subordinate in an interesting fashion, with the latter making several pertinent points. These discussions also help to inform the readers’ ideas about the case. Blair conducts a thorough investigation, though Garve writes about it in an engaging manner. I particularly enjoyed the way Blair is introduced into the story:
‘There were jocular detectives, and grim detectives, and bullying detectives and detectives who looked as though they’d just noticed a bad smell. Blair was one of these.’
It also seems that Blair is not so impressed by John’s artwork:
‘Blair’s slender nostrils widened in distaste. He wasn’t qualified to judge it as a work of art, but he knew he wouldn’t have fancied it on his wall…’
Though despite this aura of aloofness, Blair is a sympathetic figure and he is caring person. He just won’t take any nonsense…
All this was a quick and easy read, which you can comfortably read in a single sitting.