Gregory Matthews is a domestic tyrant and an all-around unpleasant man, so none of his family members are particularly grieved when he suddenly dies after eating a rich dinner. Everyone, including the local doctor, is ready to accept a verdict of death by heart failure, until the dead man’s overbearing sister insists on a post-mortem. When the autopsy reveals that Matthews was actually poisoned, however, the family is thrown into turmoil. The taint of suspicion touches everyone, from the victim’s sister-in-law, who lives in his house, to his heir, the sophisticated and sarcastic Randall Matthews. Inspector Hannasyde of Scotland Yard is on the case, and he soon finds Randall’s attitude suspicious; meanwhile, Randall claims he is working on his own to discover the murderer. But will he or the police succeed before the guilty party kills again?
I’ve been reading Heyer’s mysteries in publication order, and overall I’ve been enjoying them (though not as much as I love her Regency romances!). Sadly, I think this novel is my least favorite so far. Heyer’s greatest strength isn’t crafting suspenseful mysteries; rather, she excels in creating vivid, likable characters and witty dialogue. In this book, though, I just didn’t find the central characters very likable or interesting. Randall in particular got on my nerves; while Heyer has successfully done similarly urbane, dandified characters in her romances, in this case I found him more irritating than intriguing. The romantic storyline also felt undeveloped and unsatisfying. This book wasn’t a terrible read, by any means, but I’d recommend one of Heyer’s other mysteries instead.