Inspector Mallett wishes only to drink his less than appetizing coffee and finish his holiday at the less than charming Pendlebury Old Hall. Unfortunately, this is not to be, for he soon finds himself listening to the ramblings of Mr. Leonard Dickinson. For you see, Pendlebury was once Mr. Dickinson’s home, but is now a hotel, he should not have married his much younger wife, he and his daughter “pretend that we are necessary to each other”, and so on. But it is Dickinsons pessimistic, and rather oblique, comments regarding the end of his life that leave the biggest impression on Mallet. And so, when Dickinson is found in his bed next morning, dead as the result of an overdose, Mallet feels duty bound to provide a statement regarding those comments. The facts of the case, as well as Mallet’s account, leads the Coroner’s inquest to a verdict of suicide. This is most unfortunate news for his family, for it appears that eight months previously Dickinson placed the majority of his funds into a life insurance policy, one with a suicide clause. Faced with potential poverty, Dickinson’s son Stephen, his daughter Anne, along with Anne’s fiancé Martin, begin a re-investigation into his death. Their goal, to determine that the cause was anything except suicide. Along the way they uncover facts that they soon wish had never come to light.
My only prior experience with Hare was With a Bare Bodkin (1946), and while I enjoyed that book, it did not leave me wanting more. Suicide Excepted on the other hand had me wanting to re-read it as soon as I finished. There is an intricate plot that presented quite the puzzle. I read every single word…What had I missed? Nothing it appears…but still, I was totally taken in by the distractions Hare placed. Mallet’s appearances are brief, the story is told from the perspective of Stephen and Co., but that does nothing to take away from it, and in the end it is Mallet who comes up with the solution.
I found Hare’s brand of prose and characterization very satisfying. His style is smooth and his writing is filled with quiet humor and a dash of sardonic wit. I believe it can be best seen in one passage regarding Mr. Elderson, the private inquiry agent – “He had a good-looking face, blurred in outline, and his general appearance vaguely suggested a policeman gone to seed. There was nothing surprising in the latter fact, since it was only a few years ago that he left the Force; whether the circumstances of his retirement were in any way connected with the faint aroma of whiskey which made itself felt as soon as he began to speak was his own secret.”
I really want to thank Kate at Cross Examining Crime (or more specifically her shop CoffeeandCrime) for the Penguin Green edition, which now has a place of honor in my modest GAD library. I believe this may be one of my favorite books of this, or any genre.
My Judgement– 5/5
Prior Rulings– Bev @ My Reader’s Block https://myreadersblock.blogspot.com/2011/05/vintage-mystery-sunday-suicide-excepted.html
Kate the Armchair Sleuth @ Cross Examining Crime https://crossexaminingcrime.wordpress.com/2019/05/08/suicide-excepted-1939-by-cyril-hare/