Published by British Library Crime Classics on 1931
Source: Purchased: print book
Duchlan Castle is a gloomy, forbidding place in the Scottish Highlands. Late one night the body of Mary Gregor, sister of the laird of Duchlan, is found in the castle. She has been stabbed to death in her bedroom - but the room is locked from within and the windows are barred. The only tiny clue to the culprit is a silver fish's scale, left on the floor next to Mary's body.Inspector Dundas is dispatched to Duchlan to investigate the case. The Gregor family and their servants are quick - perhaps too quick - to explain that Mary was a kind and charitable woman. Dundas uncovers a more complex truth, and the cruel character of the dead woman continues to pervade the house after her death. Soon further deaths, equally impossible, occur, and the atmosphere grows ever darker. Superstitious locals believe that fish creatures from the nearby waters are responsible; but luckily for Inspector Dundas, the gifted amateur sleuth Eustace Hailey is on the scene, and unravels a more logical solution to this most fiendish of plots.
I found this book to be delightful and the ending made me laugh out loud with glee. The solution to the “impossible crime” was absurd and contrived – as these impossible crime solutions often are – but not such that I was annoyed.
I didn’t guess whodunnit. I was pretty sure throughout the entire thing whodidntdunit, and I was right about that, but I focused on the wrong character! Since there is no way to do spoiler tags on wordpress, I won’t say more on that subject here.
The victim, Mary Gregor, was an odious woman. She reminded me a lot of Mrs. Boynton, from Appointment With Death, which remains one of my favorite Christie mysteries. Some people go unmourned for good reason, and it is unwise to press people beyond their breaking point. The solution was reminiscent of another Christie mystery, but, again, I will refrain to avoid spoiling. I will say that Mrs. Christie’s version was published a few years later than this one, so no one can accuse Mr. Wynne of stealing her idea!
The second inspector sent to investigate, Barley, was a blooming idiot with a bad case of confirmation bias – he decided who did it, and then tried to squash the evidence into agreeing with him. And there were altogether too many characters who were willing to commit suicide to protect someone else.
The book did drag a bit – this I cannot deny, and the talky-mc-talkerson grew tiresome. I was totally astonished by the THIRD murder, and by the fourth, I was dying to get to the end! Overall, this ended up being one of my favorite of the BLCC reissues.