Gossips Galore: Detection Unlimited by Georgette Heyer (1953)

Pretty much my first thoughts on finishing this novel were, what on earth has the title got to do with the book? It sounds like the name of a firm of private investigators, but the plot is another of Heyer’s village set mysteries, and the only investigators are the police.

Hated local bigwig Sampson Warrenby has gone and got himself murdered. Unfortunately for the police there is a rather large pool of suspects (just about everybody).

Once again we meet Inspector Hemingway, whom we previously met in Envious Casca. He also appears in Duplicate Death and No Wind of Blame which I have not yet read, but there is no attempt to round him out as a character in the way that, for example Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn is rounded out.

There is at least, a lot of detail in this novel – for a start there’s a map of the village, so we can properly visualise all the convoluted descriptions of where people said they were at the time of the murder and the routes they took to get there. I always use maps when writing anything complex, so I could appreciate this. The characterisation was also quite good – as noted above, everyone has a motive – it’s because everyone has something shady in their past. Everyone also has a theory as to who committed the murder, and none of the suspects is shy about informing the Inspector who they think did it. For him, the task is to filter out the noise and the misdirection from gossipy neighbours, including the killer and identify them.

As if that wasn’t enough two of the suspects decide to investigate, and end up falling in love in the process. But it’s still hopelessly clichéd, and definitely not the best of Heyer’s detective novels.

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