A talented amateur sleuth helps the police solve an unexpectedly complicated case in this reprint from 1947.
Mordecai Tremaine, a mild-mannered retired tobacconist with a romantic soul and a knack for criminology (Murder for Christmas, 2017, etc.), is on holiday in Cornwall, where he’s staying with his friend Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Jonathan Boyce. While lazing on the beach, he’s approached by Helen Carthallow, who claims to have accidentally shot and killed her husband, Adrian, a talented, well-known artist with a fair number of enemies. After inspecting the scene, Tremaine calls Inspector Penross of the local police. Neither can believe Helen’s tale, but both are sympathetic toward her, and all three detectives are soon determined to ferret out the truth. Tremaine’s romantic bent causes him to have mixed feelings about Helen, whose husband hasn’t always treated her well, but he disapproves of her having a lover, handsome Lester Imleyson. The Carthallows' home sits on an island with steep cliffs approachable only by a footbridge that was constantly under the scrutiny of a bedridden woman living nearby. Because Tremaine has spent some time interacting with the Carthallows’ social circle, he’s well-aware of Adrian’s spiteful reputation and the enemies it’s made him. Although it seems that very few people could have had the opportunity to murder Carthallow, Tremaine, slowly recalling the seemingly unimportant things that he learned in the weeks he’s spent among this circle, comes up with an ingenuous method for murder—if he can only prove it.
The pseudonymous Duncan (William Underhill, 1918-1988), who started publishing detective fiction in the late 1930s, spins a tale typical of the genre’s golden age, full of delightfully devious characters and clever plot devices.