Murder Isn’t Easy by Richard Hull (1936)

Nicholas Latimer considers himself by far the most important director of the advertising agency NeO-aD. He believes that Paul Spencer, the head of the sales department and fellow director, is undermining his work and that the agency would be better off without him. Buying Spencer out is a non-starter, and Latimer’s attempt to vote him off the board falls upon the deaf ears of the one other voting member, fellow director and head of the finance department, Sandy Barraclough. Even an unfortunate, yet fortuitous, traffic accident fails to solve his problem. It’s clear that drastic measures will have to be taken…

Murder Isn’t Easy is an inverted mystery with a twist. We follow the point of view of Nicholas Latimer as he airs grudges, justifies his self-importance, and reasons his way toward murder. Hull takes us to the verge of the actual act, then comes the twist. In a neat take on the unreliable narrator device, the chronicler switches from Latimer to Spencer, then on to Barraclough. In each section Hull’s talent for satirical characterization is given full rein. As they air their petty grudges and opinions, each protagonist has their chance to skewer the others, and reveal their true natures. 

While the entertainment provided by these characterizations is a highlight, Hull does not give the mystery short shrift. Because he craftily shifts the perspective throughout, the reader never feels they have a handle on the plot. Unfortunately, I have to stop myself here because there is no way for me to go on without revealing too much. 

In a nutshell, this is a clever, witty mystery that I very much recommend.

My Judgment – 4.5/5

Prior Rulings – Kate @ Cross Examining Crime, The Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Les Blatt @ Classic Mysteries, Martin Edwards @ Do You Write Under Your Own Name

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza—2014 Bingo—Read one book set in England

6 thoughts on “Murder Isn’t Easy by Richard Hull (1936)

  1. I’m really pleased you enjoyed this one! It is probably my favourite by Hull and I also think it is his best work. With some of his books the experimental ideas are interesting but not wholly successful in their execution. But that is not the case here.

    1. I’ve not read Murderers of Monty. Is it any good? Hull loves to experiment and it doesn’t always work. The Ghost It Was is a good example, where he experimented with an ambiguous ending that left flat. Inverted mysteries aren’t for everyone because the characters are usually so unlikable, but Hull writes with such humor that it works for him. I do recommend this one if you get the chance. And, it’s available through Kindle Unlimited.

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