Nell Bray’s tenth case finds the suffragette heroine studying at Oxford at the turn of the century after years of wandering the continent with her mother. As the summer vacation begins, Nell, along with her classmates Midge and Imogen, has accepted the invitation of fellow-student Alan Beston to spend some time reading the classics at his great-uncle’s farm in the Lake District with his friends Kit and Nathan and don Michael Meredith. Arriving at the railroad station that serves the farm, the travelers soon discover that their host, Alan’s uncle, is no hero to his neighbors, who blame him for a list of grievances highlighted by the shooting and disappearance of his neighbor farmer’s son Arthur Mowbray. Though Nell and her friends eventually get settled down in rough quarters at the farm with help from housekeeper Dulcie and young ranch worker Robin, the students are distracted from their books by a series of shocks and misadventures that climax when the Old Man is found dead, tied to the saddle of Sid, his favorite horse. His death places them all under suspicion of foul play, but not until the coroner delivers a verdict of suicide does a second death bring home to Nell (The Perfect Daughter, 2001, etc.) the depth of her misunderstanding of romantic rivalries.
Linscott captures the tenor of the times, vividly evokes life on a ranching farm of the period, and presents a complex puzzle with an original solution. Well done.