When Mrs Pearce stepped into the life classroom of the Morosini Art School she receives the fright of her life when she sees blood “[o]n the floor, like a strand of dark red wool it was, coming from behind the screen in the corner.” Behind that screen is found the body of artists’ model Althea Greville, Althea had, at one time, been a sought-after model. At the time of her death she was bit past her prime, and but still likely to cause trouble with the males at the school. The local police see the school and its patron, Aldo Morosini, as “importations”, and decide this is a case for Scotland Yard. Inspector Hugh Collier is called in to investigate, but under cover of darkness the murderer strikes again, and again.
A nicely constructed mystery in which Dalton uses the WW2 blackouts as cover for the murders, allowing her to building an atmosphere of suspense and fear. While the murderer can use the darkness to their advantage, the police investigation is hampered by it. As a result, the majority of Collier’s investigation is through interviews. This usually tends to get a bit tiresome, but Dalton varies the tone of these interviews throughout, allowing the story to move along quite nicely.
While there aren’t a ton of clues for Collier (or the reader) to work with, Dalton creates questions around suspect alibis and motives—more than enough to keep the reader guessing. Which leads me to my quibble—which is a big one for me. Collier’s identification of the murderer was based solely on an accidental occurrence. The murderer is one who, if the reader does not pay very close attention to the clues, they will find nearly impossible to identify. The motive is also well hidden, but a very compelling one. The character did jump out in this reader’s mind, but for an entirely different reason.
All in all, I enjoyed The Art School Murders. Not quite as much as A Night of Fear, but it’s still a satisfying read.
My Judgment – 3.75/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2011 Vintage Mystery Challenge – Book 11 of 16