Not all the care a surveyor who’s determined to develop an old Scottish house into a block of flats puts into choosing his fellow tenants prevents one of them from topping another.
Underwood House is eminently a property worth developing, and Douglas Young, eager to throw off the shackles of a firm that charges a high price for his services but doesn’t pass on the riches to him, is eager to refurbish it. With the financial backing of filling-station owner Seymour McLeish, whose one novel hit the financial jackpot, he purchases the property and assembles a group of tenants, beginning with McLeish and his wife Betty. University of Edinburgh gardener Stan Eastwick lets the basement flat at a reduced rate in return for taking responsibility for the grounds. Professor Cullins adds his domestic partner, university technician Hubert Campion; architect Harris Benton contributes his design expertise; and widow Hilda Jamieson brings along her attractive daughter Natasha, whom Douglas promptly claims as a part-time secretary. All goes well until Stan Eastwick is found dead of obscure causes soon recognizable as murder. At first it seems as if Hammond (A Dog’s Life, 2011, etc.) is trying his hand at a closed-circle whodunit à la Agatha Christie. But he’s less interested in most of the characters than in the developments promised when Tash Jamieson politely asks Douglas to relieve her of her virginity. Although the killer interrupts the happy couple’s honeymoon, it’s all to little effect.
Charming but slight, even by Hammond’s gossamer standards.