Ah, that old mystery novel staple, the seance. What better setting than a room where all of the lights have been turned out to kill someone? When Sergeant Cribb is asked to investigate some minor thefts , the common link seems to be the medium Peter Brand. But when Brand is conducting another seance, he sits in an electric chair – perfectly safe, as it justs monitors fluctuations in his electrical field – there’s no way that it could generate enough current to actually electrocute him, right?
With a household full of suspects, all of which have a reason to see Brand dead, Sergeant Cribb has his work cut out for him – not least working out how exactly how the medium was murdered…
The first author on my list for 2014 possibly requires a little explanation. Peter Lovesey has a great reputation as a mystery author but the works that I’ve read of his vary from excellent – Bloodhounds – to good but a little flawed – Cop To Corpse, Stagestruck – to disappointing – The Last Detective, The False Inspector Dew. Even in the books that disappointed me, though, I could see the talent behind them. Hence my persistence with Lovesey’s work – there must be another book out there to match Bloodhounds.
I can’t actually remember where I got this book – probably a charity shop – but I’m very glad that I found it. It is an outstanding read and an outstanding mystery. As the story progresses, there are revelations about the various characters, each and every one of which is clued. Clued in such a way that you probably won’t spot the clues, but everything is there. The same goes for the revelation of the murderer as well – everything you need to know is on the page in front of you.
Cribb is an interesting detective – in the mould of someone like Poirot, his primary role in the book is to solve the crime, rather than to have a life crisis to pad the page count, but he has a dry wit. His associate, Constable Thackeray makes a nice contrast – an able policeman but just a little less imaginative and worldly-wise.
If I had a niggle… I had a little difficulty envisioning the set-up of the electric chair at first, but even so, it becomes clear well before the big reveal giving the armchair sleuth plenty of time to work things out – although, it must be said, the murderer eluded me.
In some ways, this book may be the closest thing to an Agatha Christie novel that I’ve ever read – and obviously that’s high praise. The name of the blog is In Search Of The Classic Mystery Novel – well, with this book, I think I’ve found it. Highly Recommended.
I bought this copy (I think) but all of Lovesey’s back catalogue – including The False Inspector Drew – whoops! – are available as reasonably priced ebooks.