Sunday, February 19, 2012
Suicide Excepted, by Cyril Hare
by Cyril Hare
I wasn't familiar with Cyril Hare (A.A. Gordon Clark) prior to reading this book. According to one source he wrote about ten mysteries in all, most of them novels, between the years 1937 and 1957. This is the third one and features one of his regulars, police Inspector Mallett.
I've been searching for the right word to describe Hare's style and I can't seem to come up with anything. Workmanlike and mundane both came to mind, but since they have something of a negative connotation that's not quite what I'm looking for. What I'm driving at here is that there's nothing flashy or exotic about this book, just a good solid mystery in which the plot unravels in a methodical fashion and leads to a satisfying conclusion - with a fairly decent twist.
Things get underway when the vacationing Mallett strikes up a conversation with an elderly hiker in the hotel where they're staying. Said hiker is found dead of an apparent overdose the next morning but Mallett tries to stay clear of the proceedings for the most part, since he's not really there on business.
At this point the deceased man's family mount their own investigation in hopes of proving that his death was murder rather than suicide. This is critical since a clause in the insurance policy will dramatically affect the size of the payout depending on which is the case. The man's son and daughter spearhead the amateur investigation, aided by the daughter's fiancée.
All of which proceeds quite nicely until we near the end, at which point Mallett decides it's time to stick his nose in again and that's really all I'm going to say about this one. While the twist might not seem so spectacular, depending on your level familiarity with this sort of thing, it was probably reasonably fresh some seventy years ago and worked pretty well for me even to this day.