Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer

The Unfinished Clue

The Unfinished Clue
by Georgette Heyer

Trade Paperback: 321 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark, Inc.
First Released: 1934 (reprinted in 2009)

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
A houseful of people he loathes is not Sir Arthur's worst problem…

It should have been a lovely English country-house weekend. But the unfortunate guest-list is enough to exasperate a saint, and the host, Sir Arthur Billington-Smith, is an abusive wretch hated by everyone from his disinherited son to his wife's stoic would-be lover. When Sir Arthur is found stabbed to death, no one is particularly grieved—and no one has an alibi. The unhappy guests find themselves under the scrutiny of Scotland Yard's cool-headed Inspector Harding, who has solved tough cases before—but this time, the talented young inspector discovers much more than he's bargained for.

This is a mystery novel set in Britain around 1934 (which is when it was written). The mystery was clever, and the world-building and pacing were very good.

The author introduces a lot of the characters quite rapidly at the beginning, but it's clear how everyone is related to each other. The characters were all engaging and entertaining. There is a good-natured humor to the book which shows up in the dialogue and in the quirks of the various characters.

There were plenty of clues to this mystery. It's quite possible to guess the who and the why, and yet at the same time you're not likely to guess correctly. (As in, it's the perfect balance of being guessable without being too easy.)

There were two uses of very mild cuss words. There were no sex scenes. Overall, I'd rate this as "good, 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 apparent to Miss Fawcett within one minute of her arrival at the Grange that her host was not in the best of tempers. He met her in the hall, not, she believed, of design, and favoured her with a nod. 'It's you, is it?' he said ungraciously. 'Somewhat unexpected, this visit, I must say. Hope you had a good journey.'

Miss Fawcett was a young lady not easily discouraged. Moreover, she had been General Sir Arthur Billington- Smith's sister-in-law for five years, and cherished no illusions about him. She shook him briskly by the hand, and replied with perfect equanimity: 'You know quite well it's impossible to have a good journey on this rotten line, Arthur. And how you can say I'm unexpected when I sent an expensive telegram to prepare you both for the joy in store for you —'

The General's scowl deepened. 'Short notice, you'll admit!' he said. 'I suppose you've brought a ridiculous quantity of baggage?'

'Something tells me,' remarked Miss Fawcett intelligently, 'that I'm not really welcome.'

'Oh, I've no doubt Fay's delighted!' replied the General, with a short laugh. 'Though where she is I don't know. She packs the house with visitors, but can't trouble herself to be here when they arrive.'

At this moment his erring wife came down the stairs. 'Oh, darling!' she said in a voice that held a plaintive note. 'How lovely to see you! How are you?'

Miss Fawcett embraced her warmly. 'Hullo, Fay! Why didn't you send a wire to put me off ? Arthur's all upset about it.'

The large, rather strained blue eyes flew apprehensively to the General's face. 'Oh, no!' Fay said. 'Arthur doesn't mind having you, Dinah. Do you, Arthur dear?'

'Oh, not at all!' said the General. 'You'd better take her up to her room instead of keeping her standing about in the hall.'

'Yes, of course,' Fay said. 'You'd like to come up, wouldn't you, Dinah?'

This was said a trifle beseechingly, and Miss Fawcett, who wore all the signs of one about to do battle, relaxed, and agreed that she would like to go up to her room.

'I've had to put you in the little west room,' Fay told her. 'I knew you wouldn't mind. We're — we're rather full up.'

'Yes, so I gathered,' said Dinah, rounding the bend of the staircase. 'It seems to be worrying little Arthur.'

She had a clear, carrying voice. Fay glanced quickly down the stairs. 'Dinah, please!' she begged.

Dinah threw her a glance of slightly scornful affection, and replied incorrigibly: 'All right, but it's putting an awful strain on me.'

They ascended the remaining stairs in silence, but as soon as the door of the west room was securely shut on them Dinah demanded to know what was the matter with Arthur.

Lady Billington-Smith sank down on to a chair, and put up one of her thin hands to her head, pushing the pale gold hair off her brow in a nervous gesture peculiar to her. 'Something dreadful has happened,' she answered. 'It has upset Arthur terribly.'

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