Walter has become a multi-millionaire by swindling the investors in his company and has a vast lake and underwater folly engineered and put onto his property. People can sit in the folly and look through the windows into the lake and watch the fish swim past.
The Sinnet family have a weekend house party and amongst them are Joseph Brewer and his wife Florence who are a couple in need of money who are desperate to invest in Walter’s business.
Other guests include Hattie Abberton, who has been invited by Blanche and has a big secret to hide; grieving widow Cordelia Brown, who is Blanche Sinnet’s niece;, jewellery expert George Brown and Blanche’s childhood friend Aubrey Sapping, who is in love with her. That night a storm happens that is so severe that a large tree falls down over the entrance gates making it impossible for anyone to leave the estate.
The next morning Florence Brewer’s jewellery has disappeared and a dead body is found floating in the lake facing down through the folly’s glass roof. Inspector Marcus Thomas and his son James, soon arrive at the property, along with bumbling sidekick Constable Turner in order to solve the mystery
This is a short novel coming in at 167 Kindle-sized pages. There’s a large supporting cast, all of whom have a motive for killing Walter. The Inspector is not one of literature’s iconic, smooth detectives – he’s working in a small part of the county, and spends time wishing for more than the usual petty fare he gets on a day to day basis. However, when he gets his chance, it turns out Murder Investigations are not his forte – he feels under stress and overwhelmed during the investigation, and is almost conned over the actual killer’s identity. His identification of the jewellery thief was easier, but possibly because this was a red herring and so easily detected (put in there to demonstrate he was a better detective than proved and put us off the scent for the denouement? Perhaps).
Meanwhile, there are lots of issues packed into this short novel, which ends up feeling a tad forced as a result….Overheard arguments? Check. Dodgy business affairs? Check. Threats to cut people out of the dead person’s will? Check. Theft and fraud? Check. It could have done with either being a little longer, or one or two issues being dropped altogether (for instance Hattie’s secret is dismissed rather rapidly after being discovered and she makes only a moderate appearance in the rest of the story…)
This was a reasonable attempt, and did well to capture the essence of the vintage crime stories, but just missing the mark slightly. The premise was good as was the setup and is one of the few times where I would say that the story needed to be a little longer in order to bring all the threads into balance.
About this author
Having had a long history of reading vintage crime stories that almost bordered on the obsessive, Salema Nazzal was motivated to put pen to paper and write her own book by her sister Jess. Jess, who also loves vintage whodunits, told her it was about time she wrote her own one. The challenge was made and so Salema made her way to West Dean College in Singleton, West Sussex, to do a course in crime writing that was taught by established crime authors Lesley Thomson and Elly Griffiths.