Murder winnows the guests at a country-house party.
World War I pilot-turned-mystery author Jack Haldean is attending his Aunt Alice and Uncle Philip’s Silver Wedding ball at Hesperus, their country estate, when the murder of Jack’s old friend Tim Preston disrupts the festivities. Down on his luck, Tim’s been working as a secretary for Lord Lyvenden, an obnoxious munitions manufacturer who made a big enough bundle during the war to buy a peerage and a well-bred wife to go along with it. Tim’s death looks like suicide, but Jack is suspicious, and when Lyvenden is discovered in a pool of blood he springs into sleuthing mode again (A Fête Worse Than Death, 2007). Jack’s shell-shocked pal Arthur Stanton, who was found standing over the body, has decamped, but Jack wants to believe him innocent. Also staying at Hesperus is his beautiful cousin Isabelle, who despite her recent engagement to wealthy banker and sportsman Malcolm Smith-Fennimore is a little in love with Stanton and sure he’s innocent; Smith-Fennimore himself, who takes a shot at the fleeing Stanton; Lyvenden’s unconcerned widow Lady Harriet and her companion, Lyvenden’s former mistress; Lady Alice’s swaggering stepson; and sundry other guests and servants. Perhaps several mysterious and threatening Russians, some missing papers and tales of Czarist gold may hold a clue.
A classic postwar country-house mystery with a Christie-like denouement.