Mini Reviews – Half-Mast Murder by Milward Kennedy (1930)

Professor Harold Paley’s failure to answer the butler’s knocking on the door may be a reason for consternation, but why would it cause a race to the summer house by family members and guests? Professor Harold Paley is locked inside the room and once the door is broken in, he is found dead from a knife to the chest. Outside, his niece Cynthia breaks into hysterical laughter as she points to the roof. Looking up they see the flag flying above the summer house, and it is set at half mast.

I began reading this as an ebook, but as has happened a lot lately, it was so poorly edited that I gave up. But I still wanted to read it. A short internet search later and I had a hardback edition at a reasonable price. And maps! It has maps!! Sorry, but the maps really do help with this one hence my excitement.

Was it worth it? Kinda sorta. Kennedy’s Inspector Guest is one for list’s and timetables, yet they story is not weighed down in detail. The plot does very well concerning the how and why of the murder. But, unfortunately the solution to the locked room is let out of the bag fairly early on, which was a bit of a disappointment. 

On the plus side—the identity of the culprit was well hidden within a group of suspects who all had significant motive and opportunity. Even with timetables and outlines Inspector Guest (and probably the reader) fails to see what is right in front of him.

Half-Mast was an enjoyable middling sort of mystery. That’s not to say Kennedy is an author I will abandon. I’d be interested to read another of his books—if I can find one—and if I can afford it!

My Judgment –  3.75/5

Previous Rulings – Martin @ Do You Write Under Your Own Name

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza –  2013 Scattergories – #26 Size Matters

Calendar of Crime – July #8 Month-related item on cover (flag)

8 thoughts on “Mini Reviews – Half-Mast Murder by Milward Kennedy (1930)

  1. He is a writer I have only briefly experienced in some of the Detection Club collaborations, but I have never tried one of his books. The simple reason being that no affordable copy has ever come my way. What has put me off shelling out for a more pricey copy are the very occasional reviews, which place him as dud or middling writer. He is not someone who has benefited from the reprints.

  2. Kennedy also wrote a few books under the name Evelyn Elder, and Murder in Black and White has a similar love of maps — indeed, the diagrams are faithful artistic representations of the setting where the novel takes place, and it’s a fun game matching up the diagrams (which are all contained together in the middle section) with the events described. But the plot itself is a bit of a mess, and there’s no way in hell he’s playing fair with the solution. Here’s my review, y’know, in case you’re not put off reading about it…!

    1. Sounds great. And your review makes it sound not so bad😂. I definitely want to give him more of a chance, because he does write well But as you said, maybe not the best plotter around. I’ll take a look for this one…see if it’s going for anything less than $100!!

      1. Ramble House reprinted MiB&W a few years ago — that’s how I was able to read it. Likely to be a few kicking around, surely…

      2. TomCat

        Someone has to correct me here, if I’m wrong, but I believe Kennedy’s novels from the late ’20s and early ’30s will begin entering the public domain over the next 5-10 years. So cheap ebooks and print-on-demand titles will follow eventually or turn up on places like Project Gutenberg.

      3. I believe you’re right! In the US his works start falling out of copyright beginning in 2023, 95 years after publication, and his first book was published in 1928. In the UK it’s it’s 70 years from his death, which means 2038.

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