When wealthy Englishman Ernest Fletcher is found in his study with his head bashed in, his relatives and neighbors are shocked. Ernest was well-liked and seemingly had no enemies, so why would anyone want to kill him? But as Superintendent Hannasyde and Sergeant Hemingway investigate the case, they soon uncover several motives. First there’s Neville Fletcher, the dead man’s nephew and heir to his fairly large fortune. Then there is Helen North, who has a secret involving Ernest that she doesn’t want anybody — especially her husband — to know about. Or the culprit could be Abraham Budd, a businessman who was complicit in some of Ernest’s shady financial dealings. But as the police collect motives and unearth secrets, they become more and more puzzled by the conflciting testimony about what actually happened on the night of the murder. And when a second victim appears, Hannasyde and Hemingway know they will have to act fast to catch a partiuclarly elusive killer.
In general I prefer Heyer’s romances to her mysteries, but I really enjoyed this book! There are some wonderful characters in this one: the vague, mischievous Neville, who is much sharper than he appears; the blunt, monocle-wearing Sally Drew, who writes detective novels; Constable Glass, the Bible-quoting policeman; and the impatient, down-to-earth Sergeant Hemingway. The dialogue is witty and sparkling, as usual, and I loved the romance(s) that emerged throughout the course of the book. The mystery itself is also a bit more substantial than in some of Heyer’s other books, and I was surprised by the Christie-esque twist that revealed the murderer’s identity. Overall, if you’re interested in trying Heyer’s mysteries, I think this is a really good place to start! (Hannasyde and Hemingway are recurring characters in her mysteries, but the books absolutely do not have to be read in order.) I’m reading these mysteries in chronological order, so I’ll be interested to see whether they get even better as they go on!