Even in North London, darts isn’t normally a dangerous sport, but one of the players or hangers-on at the Hollow Head’s postgame party has turned it lethal by whacking the team’s scorekeeper, Yvonne (“Chalkie”) Wood, to death with a concrete doorstop from the ladies’ loo. Though the field is small by real-life standards, including only a dozen proper suspects, none of them saw anybody skulking around the ladies’; none of them can alibi anybody else comprehensively; and all of them, it seems, have reason for wanting Chalkie dead. She was having it on with at least one member of the team whose wife was also on the premises; she’d learned about another’s secret gambling vice; a third is convinced she squeezed him off the team; a fourth is hiding a criminal past she could well have found out about. She may even have offended the team’s rumored lesbian member, the licensee of the Hollow Head, by spurning her advances. In the absence of any conclusive physical evidence, D.I. Don Packham tells Detective Constable Frank Mitchell (Up and Down, 2000), that their only hope is “the old dialectic”—interviewing the suspects over and over until somebody comes clean. That’s what they do, all right, and after several days of variously entertaining talk, somebody does.
Light and clever, though a bit of a plod, and not a patch on either Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table, the acknowledged masterpiece in this line, or Coward’s own deft mystery short stories.