So, another British Library Crime Classic, which has not yet been released according to at least one well known website, but which has been available in a chain of real bookshops for weeks. It pays to go to bookshops, people!
While I’m on the subject, I am really impressed that so many bookshops in this country are having a “Civilised Saturday” as an antidote to “Black Friday”. Going into a real bookshop for a good browse is always fun, but is so much better than the hunt for elusive ‘bargains’.
Anyway, back to the book. This Scottish Mystery as it is subtitled is not the most gripping in the series, but has a truly clever finale. A woman is murdered in a locked room. Some people have seen her as a saint, others know that she can be cruel and manipulating. Either way, her murder must be solved, and Inspector Dundas duly arrives, full of ambition and drive. One of the suspects rejoices in the name Duchlan, and I was beginning to get confused. The Highland setting and theme makes this book even more challenging, though no less enjoyable. Thank goodness for the amateur sleuth, Dr Hailey, who perseveres in the face of opposition to find the truth and save the day (and several characters!).
This book is a worthy addition to the British Library Crime Classics series. The plot is undoubtedly more clever and dense than some of the series, and is not as approachable as Quick Curtain for example. It is a difficult, complex plot, but the cast of potential suspects is kept rigorously small and the setting is deftly described. The characters are well drawn, and their motivations (not only to murder!) worked out realistically in the context of the novel. If I was given the option of reading another Anthony Wynne novel, I would definitely do so, so I was pleased to see that the good Doctor Hailey appeared in another twenty six novels…
This book is ideal for those collecting the series, and of interest to those who like locked door and mysteries set in the 1930s. The Scottish setting is well developed and integral to the story both in terms of the locality and the customs observed by the people. The female characters do play vital parts, unlike some of these novels, and I felt consequently that this book achieves a better balance than some. Whenever you do get your hands on a copy, I think that you will enjoy it!