Monday, December 21, 2009
Review: Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer
As P.C. Dickinson was riding his bicycle across the village green, he sees a man in the stocks. Thinking it is some drunken prank, he investigates only to find it is a dead man. When he calls the police station to report the death, he tells the sergeant he knows the identity of the dead man. It is Arnold Vereker, a man who is not well liked; in fact, some of his family admit to actually hating him. And what a family Arnold leaves behind. The main suspects include Arnold's half brother Kenneth and his half sister Antonia. With Arnold gone, Kenneth stands to inherit a tidy sum of money and property. Not only members of the family are suspect but there is an embezzling employee who just happens to be engaged to Antonia, a disgruntled employee and possibly one of Arnold's many female conquests or even one of their husbands. All of the suspects have viable motives. They are all too clever by half; conjuring up possible scenarios as to why any one in the family murdered Arnold and how it was accomplished. Superintendent Hannasyde has his work cut out for him as he tries to determine from all this banter who is the guilty party. The action heats us when a second murder is committed. This definitely throws a new wrinkle into Hannasyde's previous findings. I love the world of British mysteries created in the thirties. There's just something compelling about all that stiff upper lip kind of understatement and world of red herrings. When Anonia was apprised of how her half brother died by a knife thrust to the back, her respose was a very composed, "Oh, rather beastly." Somehow, I could just picture her saying that quite easily. Heyer certainly manages to capture the imagination in this mystery with her unique murder location, quirky characters, and droll dialogue. Even though I figured out the culprit, it was still an engaging and enjoyable read. 3.5*** From the back cover: Georgette Heyer wrote over fifty books, including Regency romances, mysteries, and historical fiction. Her barrister husband, Ronald Rougier, provided many of the plots for her detective novels, which are classic English country house mysteries reminiscent of Agatha Christie. Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her inventive plots and sparkling characterization.
With these reprints of Heyer's novels, Sourcebooks has created some gorgeous new covers that are truly a pleasure to view as if someone painted them in vivid watercolors. The pages feel substantial, not like some flimsy trade paperback book paper. Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by Sourcebooks, Inc. Thank you Danielle.