Francis Pettigrew has retired from the justice system, ensconced with his wife in the beautiful county of Markshire, convinced that the future is filled with peace, quiet and natural beauty. He begins to find out a little more than he expects about his neighbours when he is recruited to fill in at the nearby county court. In particular, he has to make a difficult decision about the tenancy of a particular house, either decision he could make meaning someone will be homeless.
When the residing tenant is found murdered in the idyllic surroundings of Yew Hill, Superintendent Trimble investigates, but it falls once again to Pettigrew to find the murderer.
Cyril Hare aka Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark only wrote nine mystery novels along with some short stories, his most famous being Tragedy At Law. I wasn’t particularly impressed by that one (unlike virtually everybody else) but this one is a different kettle of fish.
It’s a beautiful read, Hare having a delightful turn of phrase, especially in describing the beauty of the countryside. My gut feeling is that Hare was writing from experience, as the notion of Pettigrew’s relaxed new life really comes vibrantly off the page.
Hare takes time to build the characters here and that care really elevate the book. The murder mystery is pretty straightforward, and in the hands of a lesser writer, this would end up being a disappointment, but the writing style helps the author get away with it, making this an entertaining read.
All in all, someone just reading this for the mystery may be disappointed, but the overall experience here is of a well-constructed novel with a decent enough puzzle. Well Worth A Look.
If it’s any comfort I wasn’t particularly wowed by Tragedy at Law either.
Always good to hear that it’s not just me when I read a “classic” and don’t think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Cheers
You had me scared, I thought that there was a Cyril Hare book that I had not read. But this one is also know as Death Walks the Woods and I have read that one. And you have reminded me to reread more of his books. Lovely review.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ah, thanks. I meant to mention that in the review. Hopefully other panicking people will read this
I liked this one, but, yes, Tragedy at Law is massively overrated.
[…] That Yew Tree’s Shade by Cyril Hare – evocative story-telling with a simple plot. […]
[…] Prior Rulings – The Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel […]