Married at last to Scotland Yard Inspector Alec Fletcher, features writer Daisy Dalrymple (To Davy Jones Below, 2001, etc.) is researching an article about Brockdene, a country estate owned by Lord Westmoor of the Helstone Norvilles but occupied by the family’s Cornish branch. Three generations live in the manor house. The oldest is Susannah Norville, whose husband Albert drowned in 1874 shortly before she arrived from India with their two sons. The younger, Godfrey, has devoted his life to studying Brockdene, while older brother Victor became a captain in the Merchant Marine, but they and their mother live under a shadow: the Norvilles never accepted the legitimacy of Albert’s marriage. Daisy and family pull up at Brockdene just before Christmas 1923; the next morning, Victor returns from a voyage to India. With him is elderly Reverend Calloway, who wed Albert and Susannah and has the certificate to prove it. This piece of paper would change the line of succession to Lord Westmoor’s earldom, so it’s not too surprising when the Reverend is discovered stabbed to death in the estate’s chapel. Alec promptly sends to Scotland Yard for his trusty assistants and soon clears chief suspect Cedric, a Helstone Norville who is secretly wooing Godfrey’s daughter Felicity. There’s more—much, much more—before the unstartling killer is revealed.
An incredibly cluttered story. “It’s fearfully confusing the way everyone’s mixed up with everyone else,” Daisy remarks toward the end. All too true—and dull, too.