Gentleman adventurer Peter Kerrigan is a man with a somewhat ambiguous idea of the boundaries between what is legal and what is not. When Kerrigan sees a pickpocket extract a wallet from a gentleman he impulsively steals it back and finds a letter pertaining to a transaction which will leave the writer “worth at least a million pounds.” Upon returning the wallet Kerrigan finds that the letter’s author, John Hone, has gone missing from his job as librarian to Lord Claydon.
With nothing more interesting on his plate Kerrigan decides to investigate — and maybe profit by it. Unfortunately, when he arrives at Claydon’s home the police are already in residence, investigating the murder of the librarian who replaced John Hone. It appears there is a treasure of some kind hidden in the Manor and now one librarian is missing and one dead. Had they discovered a clue to its whereabouts?
What follows is an amusing country house thriller, although at times it feels more Keystone Cop, with a marginally reasonable solution. The mystery itself is rather thin as, once the treasure hunt begins, there is not much investigation into the murders –of which there are several.
The characters are rather an unpleasant lot, whose only interests are to locate the treasure, making them all suspects. There is the somewhat clueless Lord Claydon; his daughter Lady Pamela, who with her fiancé Captain Streatfield and friend Rosemary Shackleford, form a faction in the search; Mr. Tollemache, an art expert hired to appraise the paintings in the house, and Clayton’s friend Sir George Ilford. Lord Claydon’s aunt Caroline takes quite a shine to Kerrigan, making him her “secretary”, teaming up with him in the treasure hunt. In addition, there is The Duke, a well known criminal from America, and his gang of associates.
While MacDonell tries to maintain a humorous atmosphere the tone sometimes drifts toward darkness. What could have been light country house mystery becomes a complicated tale of gangsters loose in the countryside. Not terribly exciting, but an easy read.
My Judgment – 3.5/5
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