Professor Paley, an important political figure and writer, who doesn’t believe in war and therefore has few friends, fails to make it to tea one afternoon. This, it transpires, is not because he has been absorbed in writing as usual, but because he has been fatally stabbed. The key is inside the room and the door is locked – and yet it quickly becomes clear that this isn’t suicide. How did the killer do it? Is the motive political or personal? And why is almost everybody in the household behaving rather suspiciously?
Superintendent Guest is the stolid investigator, but underneath his calm exterior he is inwardly perturbed by the high-profile of the case, the political and literary arena into which he is unwillingly thrust (and without the appropriate gentlemanly attire) and the fact that pressure is being brought for Scotland Yard to swoop in and claim the honours; not to mention the uncooperativeness of the suspects and the mystery of the vanishing man with a highly suspicious beard.
In almost every golden age detective novel, at least some characters behave in a slightly unnatural fashion. But in this one they do rather push the boat out. It’s not badly written and there’s some interesting stuff in the book – I like the fact that the investigator is the kind of policeman who is usually scorned and outclassed by cocky amateurs, but here manages to prevail; also, his general air of contempt for almost the whole household by the end is quite believable – and I didn’t spot the killer, partly because of certain invalid assumptions on my part, but the whole thing is undermined by various acts that would be a little hard to swallow confined to one character but, in a whole slew of them, pretty much slashes through any remaining strings and duct tape left desperately suspending your disbelief.
I would be interested in trying another Milward Kennedy, but not in a desperate hurry.
Any Other Business
Well, if you don’t mind knowing who the murderer is…
SPOILER! SPOILER!SPOILER! (highlight below)
The butler did it. Yes, the actual, legitimate butler actually did it. I’m kind of happy enough to have read this one, just for that.