Mrs Dilys Botesdale was the second wife of John Botesdale, an inventor and businessman who lost his sanity in the aftermath of the War. As he recovers in an asylum, there is a question as to whether the marriage will survive, as he has little memory of Dilys and their relationship. But it hardly matters, as Dilys, after sending the household staff away for the day, takes a tumble down the stairs and breaks her neck. An unfortunate accident…
… oh, of course it isn’t an accident. Based on little more than a hunch at first, Inspector Arnold and his investigating chum Desmond Merrion, find themselves hunting a killer. But the killer seems to be someone who leaves no trace and there seems to be absolutely no motive for the crime.
Book 36 of the Desmond Merrion tales from John Street under his Miles Burton pseudonym, taken from 1947 – there are references to the recent war – and it’s very much middle-of-the-road (or -Rhode) for the author.
It starts off promisingly enough, with our heroes finding more and more evidence of murder, but as is can be the case when there is no evident motive, it gets bogged down at the point where the motive is needed to move things forward, as opposed to going around in circles. It’s necessary, as once the motive is revealed, it gives away the killer, but there’s not enough going on elsewhere to keep the reader focused.
It’s a decent enough read – Street does try and keep the reader’s attention by switching at times away from Arnold and Merrion to look at other characters, but this just has the effect of crossing some people off the suspect list. Although like at least one other of Street’s killers, it seems they operate under the assumption that they will never be put into a police line-up, as they let more than one person see their face while doing something that eventually gives them away.
Definitely not a book hat will start an obsession with Street’s work, but a decent enough distraction. Don’t pick a copy up unless it’s a cheap one. But if you come across a cheap copy, this is Worth A Look.