Welcome to Presteignton Hydro, when people (mostly of the elderly persuasion) come to have their ailments soothed by a variety of therapies and for the rest of the time, they sit around generally having a bit of moan. Mostly about Miss Blake, who is far too young and too modern for the majority of the personnel in residence. One morning, after an evening’s entertainment, Miss Blake is discovered dead – rather horrifically, in fact, with a sharp steel knitting needle slowly pushed into the back of her head.
Enter the reliable Inspector Palk and Sergeant Jago to hunt out the murderer. But everyone in the Hydro has a theory as to who the killer is – unfortunately they all suspect a different person. But when the killer strikes again, it seems that there is a serial killer at large. Does Palk have the ability to track down such a murderer before they strike again? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be no…
Can’t you see what a perfect setting this Hydro is for a murder, Inspector, with everyone wanting to murder someone else at times?
The next author to be rediscovered by the lovely folks at Dean Street Press, who were nice enough to send me a review copy as well, is Harriet Rutland. She only wrote three mysteries – all of which are available as ebooks and as… well, books from November 2nd. And I don’t know who it is who is tracking down the authors for the company but so far – George Sanders, Ianthe Jerrold, Annie Haynes – they’re doing a damn fine job. And I’m pleased to say that Harriet Rutland makes it four out of four.
I loved this book. There is a slight problem with one particular sequence that disrupts the whodunit element which I won’t go into for fear of giving things away, but despite that, this was an absolute cracker. The less you know of the plot the better – some descriptions I’ve seen, and even the blurb, gives something crucial away – so I’m going to keep very quiet on the plot developments.
But Rutland’s voice is hugely entertaining with some distinctive characters (after the first chapters where they seem to merge into each other) and a genuinely terrifying killer – the third murder in particular is chilling. Palk, while being a fairly standard police inspector, has a few nice quirks – I love his method early on for picking the order he interrogates his suspects. All of the characters have their eccentricities and distinctive traits – Colonel Simcox’s knitting for example, or the back-biting between the maids early on. Every time you think you know where the plot is going, there’s a new point of view to be savoured.
Anyway, enough from me. Just count the days until the book comes out and then a) buy it and then b) enjoy it. Yes, it’s not a perfect mystery but it’s damned good fun. Highly Recommended.
Oh, and the odd title? It makes perfect sense, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why.