Murder at Beechlands by Maureen Sarsfield (1948)
His car having gone into a ditch during a snowstorm, Inspector Lane Parry of Scotland Yard is stranded in the Sussex countryside. Staggering through the snow, he finds what he at first assumes to be a mental institution. What else is he to assume based on the inmates running and playing in the snow? However, it’s merely the Beechlands Hotel, and its owner, Mrs. Anabel Adams has assembled a party of guests to celebrate the return of war hero Lawton (Lawty) Lawrence. But when Lawty’s body is found in the snow, after a head first fall from his window, Parry finds himself investigating a murder—and trying to stay alive.
I read Murder at Beechlands many years ago when it was reprinted by Rue Morgue Press. I remember enjoying it then, and found it just as enjoyable this time around. There are a number of amusing characters for suspects, and the story moves pretty well (although there is a bit of a bump to get over when the inmates become addled by booze). Sarsfield also conjures up some pretty good atmosphere by trapping the characters together through the night. It’s sad that this is one of only two mysteries she wrote, because it is a fun read.
My Judgment – 4/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2013 Scattergories: #24 A Mystery by any other name: Murder at Beechlands by Maureen Sarsfield (1948) [A Party for Lawty (in America) and A Dinner for None (in Britain)]
Calendar of Crime – December #8 Month-related item on cover (snow/winter scene)
The Murders Near Mapleton by Brian Flynn (1929)
A Christmas Eve party at the home of Sir Eustace Vernon ends abruptly with his unexplained departure. Then the butler, Purvis, is found dead of poison, a red bon-bon in the victim’s pocket with a threatening message. Meanwhile Anthony Bathurst and Police Commissioner Sir Austin Kemble come upon an abandoned car at a railway crossing. Their search for the driver reveals a body beside the tracks—that of Sir Eustace Vernon, and a red bon-bon with a threatening message. What initially appears to be two suicides is soon revealed to be murder.
If I have one quibble, it is that there was a bit too much obfuscation used in order to keep the reader guessing. Bathurst proposes a number of questions, and very very slowly reveal the answers, sometimes right up to the end.
All-in-all, a complex story with some really quirky touches. Great, entertaining read.
My Judgment – 4/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2015 Bingo: Read one country house mystery
Calendar of Crime – December #9 House Party