The Body In The Road (1931) by Moray Dalton

When Linda Merle takes up a post as a “lady pianist” to accompany a violinist in the Tudor Café in Jessop’s Bridge, she had no idea how things would end up. After becoming firm friends with Violet Hunter, the violinist, life is looking promising, despite the shadow of Violet’s oppressive aunt.

But one night, Linda discovers the body of a dog in the road. While looking for help, she runs across Lord Harington, local peer and former policeman, but in the process Violet disappears into the ether. But as various investigations begin into her disappearance, and into the nature of the nearby asylum, the finger of suspicion begins to point towards Linda herself…

This is a hard one to review without spoiling it, as a lot of the major events take place after the halfway point. After the excellent The Strange Case Of Harriet Hall from the same author, this was, I’ll be honest, a bit of a disappointment, but do bear in mind how good that book was.

The problem here is that it is lacking focus. While Dalton rotates around several characters – Linda, Lord Harington, Lord Harington’s aunt, the local police and finally… someone who appears late on – it’s hard to know who the sleuth is. And, until the halfway point, it’s not clear what exactly they are investigating.

When that happens, the book gains some momentum and some necessary focus, and while this remains an entertaining read, there is another structural problem which, if I detail it, would probably give far too much away to the observant reader – and we don’t do that here, do we? But there is a lot of good stuff in the finale, with the murderer trapped by some trickery that a lot of sleuths wouldn’t have considered doing.

So, definitely a book in the shadow of The Strange Case Of Harriet Hall, but there is some good stuff here, just a little too unfocussed for my tastes.

Availability: The Body In The Road has been recently re-released by Dean St Press.

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