Earl and Countess of Burford at Alderly will not necessarily invite you to a house party unless your face fits, but when guests are foisted upon them because of the Earl’s sudden fascination with the talkies a small select party is formed and the weekend starts.
Lady Geraldine, the Earl’s daughter cannot make up her mind who it she thinks she would like to spend the rest of her life with – is it Paul Carter, new money or Hugh Quartus, penniless artist. To solve it bring them both together and they she can assess them comparatively.
Rex Random, film star of the swashbuckling variety is the Earl’s favourite and when film producer, Cyrus Haggermeir wants to use Alderly as a backdrop to a film, The King’s Men he enlists Ransom’s help to sweet talk the Countess. But the film ‘party’ grown when the playwright of the film turns up and demands he be involved from turning it into a talkie from a silent script, so Arlington Gilbert a most unctuous man turns up with his secretary.
Closely followed is Italian film star known for those small artistic high brow films Laura Lorenzo who receives a telegram to turn up at Alderly and wants to make her name in a big Hollywood film.
So the guests are assembled and what will make the party go with a bang? When someone is shot of course!
And so begins the piecing together of another wonderful murder mystery which seemingly takes its inspiration from all great Christie stories as well as a dash of the bumbling aristocrat and the faithful butler from Wodehouse. The flat foot that arrives has been before (The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy) and has rather an aversion to dealing with such murders or anything other than simple burglaries and car thefts. However Inspector Wilkins skill remains in his modesty and when one of the best detectives of the Yard is called in, Wilkins can go back to his simple life of detecting. But sometimes it is the simple things that give the answer.
For all fans of murder mysteries especially those set in the so called ‘Golden Age’ then this is the book for you. The second in a series of three by James Anderson kindly pokes fun but grips the reader from early on to who committed the crime. With the denouement coming uniquely at least 100 pages before the end of the book everything is slowly pieced together, unravelled and then correctly concluded. I did not guess the perpetrator, but I spent most of my time flicking from one character to the next convinced it was them before the identity was rightly revealed. It is a slow burning read that builds up, but that is what makes it conversely unique and well worth spending some time with the residents of Alderly.
I just love the cover of this book and is one which I will be keeping on my shelf rather than passing it on to someone else or to the charity shop. There is something about murder mysteries set in the Twenties and Thirties that appeals, and with this book and previous having the added bonus of being set in a ‘big house’ of which I am always rather fond of it has the right ingredients for me. It is just a shame that there is only one more to read, but I know that I could easily read them again as they are such fun. Probably because they poke fun at the time and the writings itself as well as the readers like me who enjoy them so much.
I wonder whether now Alan Bradley and his Flavia de Luce stories (granted they are set in the Fifties) are going to carry on a tradition of the parody of the murder mystery?