In McGeorge’s debut thriller, a celebrity detective wakes up handcuffed to a bed in a locked room—and there’s a body in the bathroom.
Ever since there have been fictional detectives, there have been locked-room mysteries, those seemingly impossible puzzles that hinge not only on whodunit, but how. McGeorge begins by presenting just such a problem to both the reader and the main character, Morgan Sheppard, who has grown rich and successful off “solving” the problems of others, mostly involving cheating spouses and other tawdry concerns. He is a drug addict and an alcoholic; in short, his life is a complete mess. So when he awakens in a room at the Great Hotel in London and finds five strangers locked in with him, they all assume at first that it must be a publicity stunt. Then Sheppard discovers the body of his former therapist in the bathtub and is challenged by a man in a mask to solve the murder before the entire hotel explodes. The novel offers some flashbacks to Sheppard’s youth and early career to help us understand how he became the mess that he is, but it mostly focuses on the problem at hand: How will Sheppard get everyone out of the locked room and figure out who killed Dr. Winter? The answer to the mystery lies buried in his past, so he will have to face up to some of his unsavory choices in order to escape with his life. The main problem with the novel is the character of Sheppard himself. Traditionally, the locked room mystery depends on the superior ratiocination of a Hercule Poirot or a Sherlock Holmes—not a self-destructive and bitter attention-seeker. It’s hard to get too worked up about either Sheppard’s fate or his opportunity for redemption.
An interesting premise that falls flat when the detective fails to impress, though the villain is diabolical.