Sudden death at a Victorian Christmas party.
Inspector Witherspoon is no fool. But who would guess that his sleuthing servants are the secret of his success? They all pitch in when Stephen Whitfield ends his dinner party by keeling over in his soup. Luckily, the doctor called from across the street is police surgeon Dr. Bosworth, who’s had experience with foxglove. The poison was in a bottle of pricey wine, a gift that guests Basil and Maria Farringdon donated in return for the awful port Whitfield always doled out as Christmas presents. The fortunate guests all stuck to sherry while Whitfield guzzled the Bordeaux. Mrs. Jeffries, Witherspoon’s housekeeper, duly musters her veteran troops (Mrs. Jeffries and the Best Laid Plans, 2006, etc.), who head out to question their sources and learn more about the suspects, including Whitfield’s sister-in-law and a number of old friends. Their most interesting discovery is that Whitfield was one of the last three surviving members of a tontine whose last surviving member stood to inherit all the money the participants originally invested. Although it seems a likely motive for murder, the other two survivors are wealthy men, whereas Whitfield had only a life interest in his former wife’s fortune. A weary Witherspoon is ready to give up when his canny servants come up trumps.
A pleasant, if unexciting, whodunit with a surprise ending.