Day 1120: They Found Him Dead

Cover for They Found Him DeadThe wealthy Silas Kane is celebrating his sixtieth birthday, but the party is anything but jolly. His business partner, Joe Mansell, is trying to talk him into a deal with an American company for Australia, but he thinks it’s too big a risk. His cousin Clement’s self-obsessed wife, Rosemary, is considering leaving Clement for Trevor Dermott. Betty Pemble, Joe’s daughter, can only talk about her obnoxious children.

That night Silas goes for his customary walk along the cliff top. The next morning it is clear that his bed was never slept in. He has apparently fallen off the edge of the cliff.

Clement Kane is now the heir to the estate and company, but he doesn’t seem to be any more inclined to the business deal than Silas. His wife, however, decides to stay with him because she needs money. Emily Kane, Silas’s mother, is angry that the property is going to Clement rather than to her grandson, Jim Kane.

As the businessman from America, Oscar Roberts, appears on the scene, Joe Mansell and his son Paul pressure Clement to agree to their deal. But soon Clement is also dead, shot in his office just as Patricia Allison, Emily’s companion, was about to show in Oscar Roberts for an appointment. To Jim’s surprise, he is the next heir, not his female cousin in Australia, as the estate is entailed to the male heir.

No one knows whether Silas was murdered or not, but Clement certainly was. And soon someone appears to be trying to murder Jim.

Detective Inspector Hannasyde has a plethora of suspects and doesn’t even know how many deaths to look into. Could the Mansells have committed murder for a business deal? Is someone really trying to kill Jim, or is it a blind?

I guessed the murderer and the motive almost immediately, but the puzzle isn’t the point of an Heyer mystery. Instead, it’s the characters and the amusing dialogue. This mystery isn’t very mysterious, but it’s a pleasure to read.

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Day 346: Behold, Here’s Poison

Cover for Behold Here's PoisonAlthough Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances are some of the best historical fiction around, also entertaining are her few mystery  novels, set in the time period in which they were written (this one in 1936). The only problem with many of them is that the murderer is frequently the only unlikeable character (except the victim, usually) and therefore highly identifiable. However, Heyer’s novels are character driven, and her lifelike and amusing characters are what make them so enjoyable.

There are plenty of characters to dislike in Behold, Here’s Poison. Gregory Matthews is found dead at his country home. His family assumes the death is because of his bad heart, but the police find traces of nicotine poisoning.

Suddenly, all of the surviving Matthews are suspects, including the domineering Aunt Gertrude, hypocritical Zoë Matthews, and malicious nephew Randall. Inspector Hannasyde and Sergeant Hemingway find that one big stumbling block is their difficulty in figuring out how the poison was administered.

The dialog is especially witty in this novel and the characters lively. As always, Heyer is a brilliant writer.

Day 280: Death in the Stocks

Cover of Death in the StocksIf you enjoy Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels but have never read any of her mysteries, you’re in for a treat. I’m not saying they are hard to guess, because she is so good at creating lovable characters that usually the murderer is the only character you don’t like (although in Death in the Stocks there are several unlikeable characters). But her mystery novels are funny and full of eccentric personalities. In addition, in true Golden Age form, the victim is often someone who deserves his or her fate.

A dead man is found murdered on Ashleigh Green, locked in the stocks. The victim turns out to be Arnold Vereker, a wealthy man with plenty of enemies, including most of his family members. Vereker used his local cottage as a nest where he entertained loose women.

When Superintendent Hannasyde goes to investigate the cottage, he does find a woman there, but she is Vereker’s half-sister Antonia. She has come down from London to argue with him about his having forbidden her marriage, as he was her guardian.

The list of suspects extends to Antonia’s brother Kenneth, who is the heir, his girlfriend Violet, Antonia’s shady fiancé, and Leslie, a friend of the family. Finally, the victim’s long-lost brother Roger reappears and claims his fortune.