Source: Review copy from publisher
Back Cover Description:
It's no ordinary morning at the Poplars - the master is found dead in his bed, and it seems his high blood pressure was not the cause. When an autopsy reveals a sinister poison, it's up to the quietly resourceful Inspector Hannasyde to catch the murderer in time to spare the next victim. But every single member of the quarrelsome Matthews family has a motive and none, of course, has an alibi.
This is a mystery novel set in Britain around 1936 (which is when it was written). The mystery was clever, the pacing was good, and journey (full of the the characters' foibles) to the answer was fun.
The author introduces a lot of the characters quite rapidly at the beginning. It's not immediately clear how everyone is related to each other (especially since it's an odd assortment of relationships), but it all gets sorted out fairly quickly.
Most of the characters aren't exactly nice people, but they are interesting and idiosyncratic. Initially, I didn't like a single character (except maybe Stella), but I soon found myself enjoying all of them. The author adds a good-natured humor to the book which shows up in the dialogue and in the quirks of the various characters.
Though this is a mystery, the trouble with solving the mystery comes from the lack of obvious clues rather than from an abundance of them. I solved every part of the mystery except the who-done-it because the critical piece of information wasn't revealed until the very last moment. (However, the murderer was #3 on my list, so it is technically possible to guess.)
There is a small amount of swearing by one character. Many of the characters say derogatory (though usually true) things about the others. There are no sex scenes. Overall, I'd rate this as "good, mostly clean fun."
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt: Chapter One
It was going to be a fine day. There was a white mist curling away in wreaths over the Heath that told Mary, standing on the half-landing with the dustpan in her hand, and gazing out through the tall window, that it would be sunny and really warm by lunch-time. She would be able to wear the blue voile after all, in spite of Rose's gloomy forebodings. Rose said that it always rained on anybody's half-day. Well, it wasn't going to rain today, not if Mary knew the signs.
She leaned up against the window, watching the mist, approving the heavy dew that lay like a grey sheet over the lawn in front of the house.
It was early. The Heath, which later on would be scattered over with children, and nurses pushing perambulators, seemed quite deserted, nor was there any traffic upon the road that lay between the iron gates of the Poplars and the edge of the Heath. Craning her neck, Mary could obtain a glimpse of the next-door house through a gap in the trees.
Curtains still drawn on the backstairs, she noted. Well, she didn't blame the girls at Holly Lodge, she was sure. If your master and mistress went away to the seaside you were entitled to take your ease. Not but what those girls were a lazy lot of sluts, come to think of it. Common, too. Like mistress like maid, said Rose, and that was true enough. She wasn't any class, Mrs Rumbold.
Mary turned her head, transferring her gaze from Holly Lodge to the house on the other side of the Poplars. It was a smaller house, and she could not see much of it, but she noticed that the garage doors were open. That meant that the doctor had been called out early. It was a shame the way people sent for the doctor at all hours, and half the time for nothing more serious than an attack of indigestion, so Miss Stella said. A real gentleman he was, too, and ever so handsome! She didn't wonder at Miss Stella being sweet on him. It was a pity the Master had taken such a dislike to him.