This book begins, as so many classic British mysteries do, with an ill-fated party at an English country house. Silas Kane is celebrating his 60th birthday, but many of his guests aren’t in a particularly happy mood. His heir, Clement, is desperate to get his hands on a piece of the older man’s fortune — especially because his beautiful but materialistic wife, Rosemary, is threatening to leave him. Meanwhile, Silas’ neighbor and business partner is eager to interest him in an investment opportunity, but so far he has stubbornly refused to consider the deal. So when Silas is discovered dead the day after the party — having apparently fallen over the cliff where he habitually took a walk every evening — there is no shortage of suspects to consider. And when Clement is shot in the study shortly afterwards, it seems clear that a murderer is at work. Once again, Inspector Hannasyde of Scotland Yard must untangle the various motives in play and discover the identity of a ruthless killer.
I’ve been steadily working my way through Heyer’s mysteries, and this book is a typical example. I always enjoy Heyer’s witty dialogue and hints of romance, although in this book the love story is very peripheral to the main plot. The mystery itself is fine, though there’s nothing particularly surprising for those who read a lot of detective novels. As always, the strength of Heyer’s books is her characters, and there several great ones here, from the self-absorbed Rosemary Kane to the exuberant young Timothy Harte, who is overly eager to assist the police in solving the murder. I should note, however, that while Inspector Hannasyde is a recurring character in Heyer’s mysteries, he is definitely not the protagonist; each individual book tends to revolve around the victim and the suspects much more than around the detective. Anyway, I definitely liked this book overall, but there’s nothing that makes it particularly stand out to me.