You should always beware of alibis… (p.214)
The ‘rudest man in London,’ barrister Frank Amberley, turns amateur detective after happening upon a murder victim while taking a supposed short cut to his Aunt and Uncle’s country house near Upper Nettlefield. And though it is the local constabulary that requests his assistance, he hasn’t told them everything he knows. Such as the presence at the scene of a young lady armed with a gun.
Full of mysterious and nefarious goings on, hidden documents, twists, and secrets, not to mention a fancy dress ball, this is a fabulous 1930’s period piece set in great country houses and an ivy cottage to boot. With almost unrelenting suspense and danger, the final denouement is quite thoroughly explained by Frank Amberley. But not, of course, before a sudden and, while not totally unpredictable, unlikely romance that I found reminiscent of Mary Stewart, though this predates her romantic suspense by decades.
While I was prepared for the dialogue and attitudes that had my brain involuntarily casting various early 20th century actors in parts, the use of a racial term stopped me short in my reading. Otherwise, this was a thumping good time of a read that I finished in one sitting.
I read Georgette Heyer’s first country house mystery, Footsteps in the Dark, in late 2018 and adored both the writing and the story. With the exception of what I hope is an anomaly mentioned above, this is another very enjoyable “contemporary” 1930’s mystery and I’ll be continuing my read-through of the dozen she published over the course of 2019.
Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer | Sourcebooks Landmark, 2009 (originally copyright in 1933) | paperback, 329
From the publisher:
Every family has secrets, but the Fountains’ are turning deadly… On a dark night, along a lonely country road, barrister Frank Amberley stops to help a young lady in distress and discovers a sports car with a corpse behind the wheel. The girl protests her innocence, and Amberley believes her—at least until he gets drawn into the mystery and the clues incriminating Shirley Brown begin to add up… In an English country-house murder mystery with a twist, it’s the butler who’s the victim, every clue complicates the puzzle, and the bumbling police are well-meaning but completely baffled. Fortunately, in ferreting out a desperate killer, amateur sleuth Amberley is as brilliant as he is arrogant, but this time he’s not sure he wants to know the truth…