Originally published in 1938, this British mystery ponders which of several people could have killed a rich man everyone agreed was better off dead.
Henry Cargate, the new owner of Scotney End Hall, went out of his way to annoy and insult people. He made no friends in the village when he brought in from London every supply and most of the servants. So when he dies on a train, there is little sadness but some confusion. Was it his bad heart—or murder? The novel unfolds within the structure of a courtroom trial, with droll mental observations from the judge and the foreman of the jury as the case is presented. Interspersed are accounts of interviews conducted by the deceptively simple investigator from Scotland Yard. If it was murder, which of four suspects could it be—the secretary, the butler, the village vicar, or a dealer in rare stamps who had called on Cargate? The novel has several earmarks of a Golden Age mystery—the manor house setting, the stately pace (this is not a book to skim), and the distinctions of class. But while there are true moments of dry humor, the author (The Martineau Murders, 1953, etc.) indulges in rather too much repetition of who-could-have-when scenarios, and the ending will leave many readers unsatisfied if not downright puzzled.
While one applauds the idea of reissuing classic crime novels, this isn’t the choice to reawaken fans’ interests or to charm new readers to the genre.