A talented amateur sleuth takes on a locked-room murder in this golden age whodunit.
Dr. Eustace Hailey is visiting a friend in the Scottish Highlands when the police ask his help with the murder of Mary Gregor at Duchlan Castle, where she lived with her brother, Maj. Hamish Gregor, known as Duchlan. Also in residence are Oonagh Gregor, a beautiful Irishwoman married to Duchlan’s son, Eoghan, and the couple’s sickly son. They’ve been forced to live at Duchlan Castle because they have only Eoghan’s army pay to live on, and Mary has been the family member with money and power. The murder victim ruled Oonagh with an iron hand and tried to take over her son’s care, just as she long ago took over Eoghan’s care from his Irish mother, who died young. Because Inspector Dundas won’t arrive until the next day, Hailey examines the body. Mary was found in a locked room, killed by a blunt instrument. The only clue is a fish scale from a herring, although Hailey also finds an old scar left by a sharp item. Investigating methodically, he slowly uncovers pious Mary’s manipulative and unforgiving nature. Dundas initially discourages Hailey from interfering in his case but finally asks for his help, only to be murdered himself not long after, with another herring scale left behind. Sent to take his place, Inspector Thompson Barley fastens on Oonagh’s plan to leave her husband. Rumor has it that Dr. McDonald, who cared for her son, is her lover. Hailey has a completely different theory, but can he prove it before the wrong person is arrested?
This classic British mystery, first published in 1931, has enough complex plotting and red herrings to win a new generation of fans for the largely forgotten Wynne.