Answer In The Negative (1959) by Henrietta Hamilton

Poison pen letters and practical jokes are plaguing Frank Morningside at the National Press Archive, and amateur sleuths Johnny and Sally Heldar are enlisted to get to the bottom of matters. Johnny is an antiquarian bookseller who has solved a couple of murders – this is the third of four books – and they start to investigate at the Archive.

Surprise, surprise, soon the practical jokes turn deadly and Frank falls victim to a fatal booby trap. Johnny and Sally find themselves immersed in a game of untangling alibis to find the murderer – but can it be as simple as that?

Henrietta Hamilton aka Hester Denne Shepherd wrote four books featuring the Heldars – presumably the murder in the bookshop mentioned here happened in the first one – at least one more is on the way from Agora Books like this one. Agora are the publishers behind the recent re-issuing of Richard Hull’s work.

This is a much more straightforward mystery than the Hull titles, however. It presents a fascinating background of the National Picture Archive – the 1950’s version of Google Images – and the miscellany of suspects therein. It’s a very good example of a pretty standard mystery. Alibis are checked, suspects are accused and exonerated, another murder takes place and eventually the villain stands revealed.

There are a couple of dated attitudes from Johnny when his wife exerts a bit of free will in the investigation, a little surprising to read from a female writer, but apart from that, this bounces along nicely from beginning to end. I thought the murderer was a bit obvious from the structure of the tale, but I might be alone here – Kate, at least, thought it was a surprise.

Another welcome re-release of a long-lost author, this is well worth a look. It’s out now from Agora Books.

2 comments

  1. A bunch of useless detectives ! Despite their painstaking and plodding work examining and reexamining the alibis and the timetables, they are unable to make much headway. Only a chance remark by the culprit gives them away.

    Like

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