Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert

The London legal firm of Horniman, Birley, and Craine needs to find Marcus Smallbone in order to clear up some legal matters following the death of Abel Horniman, one of the firm’s partners. But when they do find him, it is in their own offices, and he is stuffed into the hermetically-sealed deed box for the Ichabod Stokes Trust. What’s peculiar is that Horniman and Smallbone were the sole trustees to that very trust, and now all the documents pertaining to the trust are gone, replaced by aforementioned Mr. Smallbone. Chief Inspector Hazelrigg of Scotland Yard is assigned the case. Luckily he has an inside source in the form of Henry Bohun, “the very newest thing in solicitors” and employee of the firm, so it’s only a matter of time before the culprit is identified.

This is a great classic mystery. You have all the clues, all the evidence. Anyone should be able to determine the culprit…uh, no. Gilbert has produced a plot that is ingenious. The story is a puzzle that’s not at all convoluted, has plenty of surprises, and some really good read-herrings. The solution will likely elude most…like me…

One of the attractions of reading a book by Michael Gilbert is his writing style. It is clever, and filled with humor and acerbic wit. In this case not only are lawyers skewered, but detective fiction gets it quite nicely too. “A friend in the enemy’s camp, said the Assistant Commissioner. It’s quite a good idea. Only for heaven’s sake don’t be like that mug in the detective story who confides all his best idea’s to a friendly sort of character who turns out to be the murderer in Chapter Sixteen.”

Overall, this is extremely enjoyable and I definitely recommend it.

My Judgement– 4.5/5

Prior Rulings– John @ Pretty Sinister Books, Les @ Classic Mysteries, Countdown John @ Countdown John’s Christie Journal, Kate (the Armchair Sleuth) @ Cross Examining Crime, Rekha @ The Book Decoder 

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