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.

Related Posts

Behold, Here’s Poison

Death in the Stocks

Black Sheep

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Day 608: The Convenient Marriage

Cover for The Convenient MarriageThe Winwood sisters are in turmoil. Miss Winwood has gained a spectacular suitor in the Earl of Rule, who has finally decided to marry. He is wealthy, and his generous settlement will save the family from ruin. The only problem is that Miss Winwood is in love with Edward Heron, a mere army lieutenant and a second son with no fortune.

Young Horatia Winwood, not yet out of the schoolroom, thinks she has the solution. Rule wants to marry a Winwood, and it should not matter to him which one. So, she goes to his house and proposes herself as an alternative. She forthrightly points out her unfortunate eyebrows and her stammer and hopes that Rule won’t mind them. Rule is enchanted.

So, Horry gets married without realizing she has made a love match. Since Rule is afraid he may be too old for her, he treats her with a little too much care. She has told him she won’t interfere with him, so she says nothing when she learns about his mistress, Caroline Massey.

Rule has broken with Massey, though, who is jealous and angry. Crosby Drelincourt, Rule’s foppish heir, is eager to make trouble, as is Rule’s enemy, Robert Lethbridge.

Horry soon finds herself very popular. But her efforts to make Rule jealous and the plots of Rule’s enemies land her in trouble, and her scapegrace brother Pelham’s schemes to get her out of it only make things worse.

In Horry, Heyer has created another engaging and feisty heroine. Heyer is an expert on the Regency period, as well as the master of warm and funny romantic escapades, and The Convenient Marriage is one of her best.

Day 433: Black Sheep

Cover for Black SheepI hadn’t read this Georgette Heyer novel in some years. Although it is not one of my absolute favorites, reading it is still a relaxing, amusing way to spend a few hours.

When Abigail Wendover is away from her home of Bath visiting her family, she hears disturbing rumors that her niece Fanny, an heiress, is being courted by a fortune hunter named Stacy Calverleigh. Returning home, she finds that her 17-year-old headstrong niece believes they are madly in love, and she is not ready to listen to arguments that Calverleigh, a much older man, has not behaved as he should. He has also worked his way into the good graces of Abigail’s foolish sister Selina.

Abigail encounters a man named Calverleigh in a hotel parlor, and she is shocked to find him neither of good looks nor address and much older than she is herself. He is further prone to uttering the most shocking remarks that unfortunately make her laugh. Soon Abigail finds that this Calverleigh is not Stacy but his uncle Miles, the black sheep of the family, who was sent away to India after a youthful scandal and has now returned. However, he is unwilling to interest himself in the situation between her niece and his nephew. He is only interested in Abigail herself.

Although Abigail knows she shouldn’t encourage his attentions and finds some of his views about family and duty shocking, he never fails to make her laugh. Soon she discovers that he is even more unsuitable a companion than she thought, for his youthful indiscretion was to run off with Fanny’s own mother, who later married Abigail’s older brother!

Abigail is one of Heyer’s more mature heroines, an intelligent, sensible woman with a sense of humor some of her relatives consider unfortunate. Of course, the journey out of the tangle her niece is in will be enjoyable and entertaining. Although this novel is not as funny as some of my favorites, it is always a pleasure to spend time with Heyer’s creations.

Day 397: Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle

Cover for SylvesterOn occasion, I reread a few of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, which have been some of my favorite reading for many years. Just recently, I reread Sylvester, which in some editions is titled Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle.

The extremely eligible bachelor Sylvester, Duke of Salford, has decided to take a wife. His only difficulty is in deciding which of five eligible girls to marry. When his beloved mama mentions that she and her best friend made a plan for their children to marry many years before, he decides to go inspect the girl, his godmother’s granddaughter, to see if he might like her. Although he is warm and thoughtful to those he cares for, since his twin brother’s death, he has been aloof to others and comes off as haughty.

Sylvester’s visit is disguised as a hunting party, but Phoebe Marlow is informed by her detestable stepmother that the duke is coming to make her an offer. Unfortunately, Phoebe has already met Sylvester and took such a dislike to him that she used him as the villain in a novel she wrote. That novel is going to be published, despite all expectation. Normally, she would not expect him to recognize himself in a silly gothic romance that pokes fun at various society figures, but for the mention of Sylvester’s very distinctive eyebrows.

Fearful of her stepmother’s pressure and not understanding that Sylvester has no intention of proposing, Phoebe talks her childhood friend Tom into escorting her to her grandmother’s house. However, an accident and a snowstorm strand her and Tom with Sylvester in a small country inn.

After Phoebe gets to know and like Sylvester, she is horrified to find out that he has a nephew, since in her silly romance his character is a wicked uncle who wants to steal his nephew’s fortune. Another horror lurks, because Phoebe’s book proves to be a smashing success, much read by society members, who are all trying to identify their friends. Since Phoebe has never brought herself to admit to Sylvester that she wrote a book, she soon fears that people will find out she is the author.

Heyer creates delightful, engaging characters and puts them into silly and unbelievable situations, which is part of the pleasure of reading her novels. They are very well written, with entertaining and sparkling dialogue and a complete understanding of the customs, dress, and speech of the period. If you decide to read Sylvester, get ready for some fun. Many of Heyer’s novels have been re-released in the past few years, so they should not be hard to find.

Day 353: Friday’s Child

Cover for Friday's ChildFriday’s Child is one of Georgette Heyer’s funniest Regency romances. Although some of her novels are a bit closer to being “serious” romances (that is, with the emphasis on the romance, but always with witty dialogue), this novel is endearing in its plethora of foolish characters.

Anthony Verelst, the Viscount Sheringham, is a wild young man who is extravagantly wasting his inheritance on gambling and women, but his estate is left so that he cannot touch the principal unless he marries. He has fancied himself in love with the current reigning beauty, Isabella Milbourne, but he is not tempted to matrimony until he becomes fed up with his mother and her brother, one of his trustees, whom he believes is milking his estate. He proposes to Isabella, plainly expecting an answer in the positive, but piqued by his lack of ceremony, she rebukes him for his dissipated lifestyle. In a rage, he storms off, vowing to marry the first female he meets.

As he is returning to London from his mother’s house in the country, he meets Hero Wantage, a very young lady who is an impoverished orphan and a neighbor. He thinks of her as a little sister, so he has no hesitation in relating the tale of his misfortunes. When he tells her of his vow, she answers, “Silly, that’s me!” So, the heedless viscount throws her up into his curricle and drives her off to London to get married. Since she has long worshipped the Viscount, or Sherry, as he is known to his friends, and has been mistreated by her Bagshot relatives, she is happy to go.

The couple is naturally headed for trouble, for Hero is completely naïve and badly brought up, with no idea of how to behave in society. The heedless Sherry seems to feel that he can go on about his business as always without paying much attention to her, so she begins befriending the wrong people and otherwise falling into scrapes.

This novel features an outstanding cast of secondary characters, especially Sherry’s close friends–Gil Ringwood, a thoughtful young man who vaguely feels there is something wrong with the way Sherry neglects his wife; Ferdy Fakenham, a silly but warm-hearted dunderhead reminiscent of Bertie Wooster; and George, Lord Wrotham, a hot-tempered gentleman who constantly challenges other men to duels and is madly in love with Isabella. As a side comment, I think it is a hallmark of a good Heyer novel that the characters who would be the heroine and hero in a typical romance novel (that is, Isabella and George) provide some of the humor in her own novels, especially the devastatingly handsome George, with his exaggeratedly romantic behavior.

Heyer is one of my favorites for light reading, and Friday’s Child makes me laugh out loud, particularly when Ferdy gets it into his head that he and Gil are being pursued by “that dashed Greek we learned about at Cambridge. Kept lurking about in corners,” in other words, Nemesis. The characters are funny, the dialogue is witty, and the plot is full of twists and turns.

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.