It was a late start this morning because I couldn’t get up until I had finished this brilliant murder mystery!
On one of those wet, pitch-black, pea-soup foggy nights in London the artist Bruce Manaton is in his studio painting the actor André Delaunier in brilliant scarlet Cardinal’s robes while their friends Robert Cavenish and Ian Mackellon play chess and Bruce’s sister Rosanne Manaton makes supper in the kitchen. Into this bohemian den bursts the local Special Constable Lewis Varraby – Albert Folliner, the old miser at number 25 has been found dead, shot in the head, in his bed, a pistol lying next to him and his nephew Neil, (of the Canadian Army), standing over him.
Detective Chief Inspector Macdonald, is called in to arrest the young soldier but with Inspectors Jenkins and Reeves he can see that all is not how it seems
‘that’s all nice and plain, but I reckon this is a frame-up. It wasn’t just chance I walked in on the old man’s corpse and got copped before I’d time to think. I’m the cat that burns its paws on someone else’s chestnuts, and I don’t like it. You see, I didn’t do it.’
First published in 1944, the war time setting is absolutely integral, after all who would pay any attention to a bang on a dark night when they had lived through explosions. But rather than talking about the war it’s the spirit of it that’s captured, as a minor character says ‘bombs I can disregard – we’re all in it together – but crime and corruption and disreputability – it’s too much.’
Detective Chief Inspector Macdonald is always fair and steadfast and perfect in a crisis but I thought in solving this crime he was more personable than usual.. I think that’s partly because he had two inspectors working with him, instead of one, so we got to see him as more of a team player and partly because of the studio characters; often dismissed as bohemian and lazy, they show him in a light that was both egalitarian and knowledgable.
So, as I’ve come to expect from Lorac, an atmospheric setting with a good cast of characters and a plot that eeked out the whodunnit until the very, very end. Excellent all round and it was my first read for this years TBR Challenge.