Sunday, September 17, 2017

No Wind of Blame

No Wind of Blame
by Georgette Heyer
Recommended Ages: 12+

Nearly everyone at the Palings, an English country house owned by the retired actress Ermentrude Carter, has a motive for murdering Ermentrude's good-for-nothing husband Wally. But when someone shoots him dead in the middle of a footbridge on his way to tea at the neighbor's house, the police are puzzled. None of those apparent motives seem to match up with the ability to have smuggled the victim's own rifle out of his gun safe, or an opportunity to have pulled the trigger from the cover of nearby shrubbery. And of those people with a shred of opportunity, everyone seems to have an airtight alibi - or, at least, no one can explain how they could have gotten the gun out of the house, or how they would have known where and when to lie in ambush for poor, worthless Wally.

This murder mystery has first the local police, then Scotland Yard scratching their heads, while members of Ermentrude's circle of family, friends, and neighbors act out a complex weave of romantic melodramas in a style that I would like to describe as "Agatha Christie meets P.G. Wodehouse." One particular couple had me often chuckling, and occasionally laughing out loud, especially at the girl's spirited meddling and stage-struck eccentricity. Incidentally, who done it and how they (almost) pulled it off account for a really nifty surprise. Spread over everything is a layer of between-the-world-wars English charm, enhanced by a possibly fraudulent Georgian prince, a couple of Bolshevik sympathizers, and masterful scenes of drawing-room histrionics.

One of Regency romance maven Heyer's 12 detective novels, this is the first of four "Country House Mysteries" featuring Scotland Yard Inspector Hemingway. The other three are Envious Casca (a.k.a. A Christmas Party), Duplicate Death, and Detection Unlimited. I enjoyed the audiobook version read by Ulli Birvé during a recent interstate road trip.

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