I have never read one of Heyers’s crime novels before, although my mother has several, they were never of interest to me when I was younger – I preferred the regency romances. I came across this one in the library I work in, and decided to see what it was like.
The title is from Julius Caesar
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
You all do know this mantle: I remember
The first time ever Caesar put it on;
‘Twas on a summer’s evening, in his tent,
That day he overcame the Nervii:
Look, in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Casca made:
From this we may deduce that the victim met their death through stabbing, and also that the murderer was a purported friend of the victim. Perhaps.
This is in many ways a typical whodunit of its period. It’s a country house whodunit – with the various members of a family assembled (mostly unwillingly) for Christmas. It takes rather longer than usual for the victim to meet his maker, and even longer yet for the police inspector to arrive, so that he is far less the hero than we might expect him to be. It was an enjoyable read – I did guess whodunit fairly early on, but that wasn’t because I had worked out who they were but more because I felt there would be no justice if it turned out this character didn’t do it. From the plotting, I could see the similarities with some of Heyer’s regency whodunit/romances such as The Quiet Gentleman, and I felt the character who most passes as a heroine was similar to the heroine in that novel, Miss Morville, if I remember correctly.
I liked this enough to be motivated to explore Heyer’s other detective novels, and I now have Penhallow in my to read pile.