Miss Euphemia Pongleton is an unpleasant old woman living in a dreary but respectable London boardinghouse. When she is strangled on the steps of the Belsize Park underground station, her fellow boardinghouse residents are surprised rather than saddened; but they soon move past their shock to speculate on who might have done the deed. The police have arrested one suspect, the boyfriend of a maid in the boardinghouse who had been involved with some petty thievery. But the maid is convinced her man is innocent, and the boarders entertain themselves by coming up with alternate theories of the murder. Naturally, Miss Pongleton’s nephew Basil, who always seems to need money and who depends on inheriting his aunt’s fortune, is a prime suspect. But Basil, despite some highly suspicious behavior on the day of the murder, insists that he is innocent. Are his protests a clever ruse, or could someone else in the boardinghouse have wanted Miss Pongleton dead?
This was a very enjoyable Golden Age mystery, although there’s really nothing that makes it stand out from the genre as a whole. But sometimes formulaic plots are comforting, and that’s why I usually enjoy mysteries from this era. There’s the unpleasant murder victim whom we don’t need to mourn; a variety of suspects with a variety of motives, secrets, and questionable alibis; the secondary love story; and the amateur detectives who solve the crime without the involvement or assistance of the police. The mystery is well plotted, and I didn’t guess who the murderer was (although I suspected almost every character at one point or other). There are also some lovely bits of humor, such as when the boardinghouse residents fight tenaciously — but silently — over who gets to sit in Miss Pongleton’s chair. All in all, I’d recommend this to fans of Golden Age mysteries, but it’s definitely not a stellar example of the genre.