This is a Golden Age Mystery not to be missed! Available from Dean Street Press, who have brought out some excellent murder mysteries, this marks the 1938 debut of a woman writer who is confident enough to make quite a lot of the female mystery writer in the book itself. One of the great things about Dean Street Press is its championing of female writers of the mid twentieth century, making these little known books available once more.
Rutland sets her tale of multiple murder in a ‘Hydro’, a sort of hotel for those who wanted some medical attention, but were often in need of a long term place to live, with full meals and maid service. Certainly the widowed, single and other residents are a singular lot; women who have nowhere else to be, ex military men seeking some form of community, a family whose grown up daughters feel trapped by their surroundings. A younger woman turns up, and her fashionable clothes, daring make up and overall behaviour shocks and fascinates all the other residents. It seems that she will provide enough valuable scandal for months to come, when a shocking murder shakes the establishment to the core.
The arrival of Inspector Palk gives much reason for complaint, as despite his methodical questioning and determination to solve the mystery, he struggles to justify making an early arrest. Mrs Dawson, resident mystery writer makes admission as to method, and quotes her theory
“Well, have there were to have been several murders in the book. Two or three, at least. The reading public nowadays is never satisfied with only one murder. They like plenty of thrills for their money.”
In this book there is more than one murder, and I found one a little disturbing. The characters in this novel are all convincingly strange and of their time. As a closed community mystery it works well, with some very funny interludes, such as the charabanc trip to see the murder site which enrages some of the residents. The final scenes are suitably tense, with an interesting moment of drama as the revelations are made. I particularly liked the ending when all is explained and resolution reached, even if the solution is admittedly an old – style characterisation.
Overall, this is a satisfying read for anyone keen on Golden Age mysteries, especially as it almost makes fun of itself as the readers and writers of these novels appear with their suggestions. It is a confident novel that includes all the usual suspects and interesting twists. I really enjoyed it, and yes, struggled to put it down.
Yes, another review in double quick time! I have just been accepted to do another M.A. at the University of Derby, this time in Public History. As Northernvicar is also going to attempt to do the course, this could be fun. So maybe from September the reviews could slow down a little…