In the midst of prosecuting a case against a shady businessman, attorney Neville Shandon visits his twin brother Roger’s country estate at Whistlefield. Interestingly Roger has a past checkered with a few shady business deals himself. Both under pressure, for very different reasons, they are looking for someplace private where they can think about the matters that are pressing in on them. The grounds at Whistlefield, contain a double-maze, the perfect place for quiet contemplation, so each picks a center where they hope they will not be disturbed. But unfortunately, they are disturbed, because sometime later they are found, each in a different spot in the maze, dead, shot by poison-tipped darts.
This is my second experience with J.J. Connington, the first being The Castleford Conundrum, I found it just as enjoyable, yet you can tell that this is early in his writing career (this being his third novel and the debut of Sir Clinton Driffield). This is most telling in the presentation of the suspects. There are quite a number of characters who could be the murderer, and while he tries to hone your focus on one, it is fairly clear from early on who the culprit is. But on reflection, this may have been a deliberate device on Connington’s part, as one of his major themes is the burden of proof.
There’s a big gap between knowing a thing and proving it,’ said Sir Clinton, cautiously.”
The plot is intricate, presenting the reader with multiple motives and red herrings. Could the murder’s be a result of Roger’s shady business dealings, or the high-profile case that Neville is prosecuting? Was one brother mistaken for the other and as a result, both killed to rectify the mistake? Has their nephew Arthur been left more unstable that they believed by the bout encephalitis lethargica he recently suffered?
…he might turn into a homicidal maniac any day, and then, as like as not, he’d go for the nearest relation hand. A nice sort of fellow to have in one’s neighborhood.”
Chief Constable, Sir Clinton Driffield and his friend Squire Wendover make an interesting and unique pairing of investigators. Driffield treats his friend as an equal, listening to his theories, and finding them quite creditable. Yet Driffield himself is a cipher with regards to his own thoughts, refusing to commit himself or openly discuss his theories.
Sir Clinton style of investigation is unusual. While at in manner personable, and often treating witnesses with sensitivity, he can quickly become almost callous and cold in his inquiry. On multiple occasions he even manipulates circumstances to tempt the murderer into acting, with unforeseen and unfortunate results. And, rather than the unveiling of the murderer it is Driffield’s brand of justice that lends itself to an exciting ending.
While not without its flaws, forget that you know whodunit and keep reading, this is definitely worth it.
My Judgment – 4/5
Prior Rulings – Bev @ My Reader’s Block, Aidan @ Mysteries Ahoy, The Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Murder Mystery, Curtis Evans @ The Passing Tramp, José @ A Crime is Afoot, TomCat @ Beneath the Stains of Time
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – Vintage Mystery Challenge 2019: Just the Facts, Ma’am – How: Unusual murder method
Murder Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge – Weapons: Arrow or dart, Red Herrings: Twins
Calendar of Crime Reading Challenge – March #9: Money/fortune/inheritance has major role