The Night Of Fear (1931) by Moray Dalton

It’s Christmas time in Laverne Peveril and in the Eustace family home, the party is in full swing. As all sensible adults do, they decide to have a game of hide and seek – seriously, did people really do this outside of mystery novels? – and before you can say “one of the guests is going to be murdered”, one of the guests… oh, you guessed?

Luckily Inspector Collier is on the scene, along with the local Sergeant Lane, but after a merry-go-round of sleuths, it falls to Hermann Glide to find the truth. But with an apparently guilty party already on the way to court, he finds himself in a race against time to find the murderer.

Moray Dalton wrote a number of mystery novels between 1924 and 1951, and has finally returned to print thanks to those nice people at Dean Street Press. Shall I plug the Brian Flynn books again at this point? Why not, they make the perfect Christmas present…

Sorry, distracted myself. Back to Moray Dalton. Having really enjoyed The Strange Case Of Harriet Hall, and to a lesser extent The Body In The Road, I thought I’d return to her work once again to see how things were with this title, a book that follows on in publication order from The Body In The Road. In that book, the detective Glide showed up very late in the day, and while it still takes a while for him to show up, there’s more of him here.

There’s some odd choices made here in the way of plotting. The transformation that undergoes the prime suspect must have some basis in fact, but it comes across as… well, odd. Also, there’s a plethora of suspects – probably too many in fact – being under suspicion in the early stages, who, it seemed are suddenly cut back to a much smaller circle. I could be wrong about this, I was reading it in very small chunks for a while… sorry.

Once Glide arrives, the narrative seemed to become much more focussed and it became a much more rewarding read – admittedly, I read the second half in a single sitting, which might have helped – and the choice of villain was very well done, I thought.

Dalton’s writing style, moving from character to character, giving insights without giving the game away, is very satisfying, and this is another good book from the author. I gather that there is more Dalton to come from Dean Street Press and this is something that all crime fiction fans should look forward to.

Just The Facts, Ma’am: WHEN – Time/Date in the title. Night is a time, isn’t it?

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