Einar and Puck Bure, along with Puck’s father Professor Ekstedt, are determined to have a quiet holiday. Where better to go than Skoga to stay at Einar’s family home, in an area known as the Valley. But, the very first morning they awake to find a corpse in their garden. The victim is the son of their neighbor, Colonel Holt. Tommy Holt had a notorious reputation, and after being thrown out by his father, had left Skoga three years previously. Witnesses claim to have seen him on the day of his return, headed towards the Valley, but all of the neighbors deny having seen him—so they say. The Bure’s quiet vacation plans are disrupted as they become involved in helping to unravel a tangle of secrets, lies, love, hate, jealousy, and murder.
I discovered Maria Lang’s books earlier this year. She was quite prolific, publishing 40 mysteries featuring Puck Ekstedt and Inspector Christer Wijk, but unfortunately, only three of her books have been translated into English. Along with No More Murders, they include Death Awaits Thee (1955) and A Wreath for the Bride (1957), the latter of which I read and reviewed some months ago. Finding physical copies has not panned out, but at least all three are available as ebooks.
With its amateur sleuth and closed circle of suspects Lang’s story is definitely rooted in the English traditional mystery. What’s different here that Lang is quite comfortable employing the passions and sexual relations of her characters as motivation for murder, as well as the dark undercurrents that can exist in a small village. While this is by no means dark, or filled with psychological suspense, Lang’s story which begins with sunshine and nestled cottages, soon reveals a village that is in no way idyllic, and residents are far from innocent.
“The people of Skoga happily ventilate other people’s affairs, but usually behind their backs. If they meet them eye to eye, they smile engagingly and make polite conversation.”
The mystery is very well crafted. Lang is continually shifting the readers view of the victim. Is he a disreputable wastrel, or a misunderstood boy who, even though quite innocent, received the blame for everything? The pool of suspects, all of whom either have knowledge which they are withholding or a definite motive for murder, allows Lang to lay out a number of red herrings. And four confessions, all with a grain of truth, confound the issue even further.
Another very good read from Lang, and one that I definitely recommend. Now, could someone please translate more of her work? It’s either that, or once I read Death Awaits Thee I have to learn Swedish!
My Rating – 4/5
Prior Judgments – Kate @ Cross Examining Crime
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza—2014 Bingo—Read one translated work