Death is No Sportsman by Cyril Hare

Shortly after the signature of the Treaty of Versailles, four business men, who had made enough money during the war to be able to attend to the really important things in life, formed a syndicate among themselves and bought the fishing rights of a reach of the River Didder.” 

For seven months of the year the syndicate serenely fish their stretch of the Didder, with the Polsworthy Arms as their unofficial headquarters. But twenty years later, when the body of a boorish local landowner is discovered along the river, the scene is less than idyllic. It is soon apparent that there are quite a few people who disliked the deceased man. Baffled by the long list of suspects, conflicting statements, and a tangle of complex relationships, the local police send for Scotland Yard and Inspector Mallett to resolve the case. 

I enjoy Hare’s unique talent at characterization, and was glad to see that it shines throughout this book. Hare takes the opportunity reveals more of Inspector Mallett’s personality, beyond his prodigious appetite. That large and plodding exterior hides an inquisitive, shrewd investigator. It also conceals a kind-hearted individual with a talent for gaining the confidence of his peers, witnesses, and suspects. Hare also creates some very entertaining, if not always pleasant, characters. Major Strode, the blustering local chief constable, who Mallet manages to exasperate with his ignorance of fly-fishing, as well as his investigative techniques; Stephan Fortescue Smithers, solicitor, member of the syndicate, pompous to the extreme, and unknowingly the holder of vital clues, and Mrs. Large, “parson’s wife – damnedest gossip in the whole county. Pokes her nose into everything and then screams about it like a jay in a pheasant covert.” Mrs. Large, who is determined to serve Mallett as his “nark” (much to his chagrin), and is by far the most entertaining of all.

As always, the writing is smooth, the pacing is good, and the narrative is filled with charming characters, humor and sardonic wit. But, while the plot is intricate, with multiple suspects and a rather thorny timetable of events, I felt that the solution was somewhat transparent, and the culprit not necessarily a surprise.

While I recommend this one because on the whole it was an enjoyable read, having read more Hare recently, I would say that it is not his best.

My Judgement – 3.75/5

Prior Rulings – Kate (The Armchair Sleuth) @ crossexaminingcrime

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