A Night of Fear by Moray Dalton

A Christmas party at the country home of Mr. and Mrs. George Tunbridge, and a game of hide and seek – in the dark. In the darkness house guest Hugh Darrow hears a sound “like the ticking of a clock”. And when he reaches out to investigate “…touched an arm, a shoulder, something warm, wet, and sticky.”  He rushes out and calls for light, and is revealed with blood smeared on his hands and arms, covering his white Pierrot costume. 

The victim is Edgar Stallard, a writer of “[r]eminiscences and biography of the scandalous type and réchauffés of criminal trials”; a man who “the women thought no end of” but the gentlemen in attendance “couldn’t stick”. A house full of guests should equal a house full of suspects. But when Darrow is less than forthcoming about certain facts the police think they have their murderer. 

The story actually begins with Sergeant Lane, of the local police, being called to investigate the murder. With him is his friend, Inspector Collier of Scotland Yard, who though on holiday, observes the initial investigation on an unofficial basis. There’s a bit of a kerfuffle over Collier’s presence, and he is asked to leave, then he is asked back when Lane is mysteriously injured. But before he can complete his investigation he is permanently relieved at the behest of Sir Eustace Tunbridge (George’s cousin, and insufferable boor). It is Collier’s belief that Sergeant Lane had discovered information that would lead to the murderer, who had then made an attempt on his life. He also isn’t convinced of Darrow’s guilt, but since it’s no longer his case there is little he can do, or is there?

This was an excellent detective novel, a very good read that I found myself reading well into the night to finish. with a well-executed, nicely convoluted plot. What appears at first sight to be straightforward, is actually quite complex, complicated by a change in the direction of the investigation once Collier is replaced. In actuality the majority of the investigation is done by the Hermann Glide, a private inquiry agent recommended by Collier. Once Glide begins his investigation matters begin to move along quite rapidly.

What comes to light out of the investigation is a surprise and creates quite a twist regarding the outcome. This is a mystery that is not easily solved, and while arguably the data offered to the reader is a bit thin, I thought the clues were there, and I was able to spotted the culprit almost immediately. It just seemed obvious to me. I also found twist to be pretty interesting and added a lot to the story.

My Judgement – 4/5

Prior Rulings – Nick @ The Grandest Game, TomCat @ Beneath the Stains of Time

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