Review 2026: Checkmate to Murder

In a bare studio on a foggy night during the Blitz, five people are occupied. An artist, Bruce Manaton, is sketching an actor, André Dalaunier, dressed as a cardinal. On the other end of the big room, two men, Robert Cavendish and Ian Mackellon, are playing chess. Rosanne Manaton, the artist’s sister, looks in occasionally from the kitchen and once steps outside to check the blackout.

A Special constable arrives at the door with a Canadian service man in tow. He claims that the old man in the house next door, Mr. Folliner, has been murdered and he caught the service man fleeing the scene. The soldier, Neil Folliner, says he went to visit his uncle and found him shot dead. The Special wants the people in the studio to guard Neil while he goes to call the police.

When Inspector Macdonald’s team begins investigating, they learn there is a rumor that the old man was a miser, although Mrs. Tubbs, his charwoman, had been bringing him food for fear he would starve. The house itself is absolutely bare, but there is an empty strongbox in the bedroom where the murder was committed.

Questioning a soldier who stood at the corner for a long time waiting for his girlfriend reveals that the only people who passed him on the street at the relevant time were Mrs. Tubbs, Neil Folliner, and the Special. It would seem that the people in the studio, all but Rosanne, alibi each other. But Inspector Macdonald doesn’t take anything for granted, and he is also interested in the studio’s previous tenants, who spread the rumor about the old man being a miser.

This mystery presents an interesting puzzle, although one not as complex as is sometimes found in Golden Age crime novels, for which I was thankful. On the other hand, I’m not sure if I think the solution isn’t a bit far-fetched. Also, it didn’t seem as if Lorac paid as much attention to characterization as she usually does, perhaps because there are quite a few characters. Still, I think her novels are some of the better ones in this series in general.

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10 thoughts on “Review 2026: Checkmate to Murder

  1. Jane September 12, 2022 / 11:19 am

    I really enjoyed this one, I loved the studio setting – all a bit bohemian for the special constable!

  2. Helen September 12, 2022 / 2:26 pm

    I still haven’t read anything by Lorac, but she seems to be one of the most popular authors in the series. Which of her books do you think would be a good one to start with?

      • Helen September 12, 2022 / 2:47 pm

        Thanks – maybe I’ll try that one.

    • whatmeread September 12, 2022 / 2:29 pm

      She’s more interested in character and less interested in complicated murders (although she has a few) than some of the other Golden Age mystery writers.

  3. historicalfictionisfiction September 19, 2022 / 7:43 am

    Thanks for this suggestion. A nice, tight little mystery. . .and another Golden Age mystery writer. There are more of them than I thought/knew about.


    • whatmeread September 19, 2022 / 9:45 am

      Yes, there are appear to be loads of them.

  4. FictionFan September 27, 2022 / 6:11 pm

    I loved the way she used the blackout in this one – I think her wartime London books are great for creating a feel for what it must have been like to live through that period. And I found the sort of spookiness of the dark studio quite fun!

    • whatmeread September 27, 2022 / 8:11 pm

      Yes, although I thought it was implausible, even if concentrating, that the two men wouldn’t notice someone leaving the room.

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