The Cannibal That Overate (1962) by Hugh Pentecost

The Hotel Beaumont, one of the most prestigious in all of New York, has a darkness at its heart. Well, in the penthouse suite, anyway. Aubrey Moon is a deeply unpleasant individual, who prides himself on ruining other people’s lives. And he is having a birthday party…

While the hotel prepares everything for this over-indulgent get-together, and the head chef wrestles with avoiding a nervous breakdown, a dead body is found in one of the hotel rooms. She was an acquaintance of Moon, and in her possessions was a note offering her $10 000 if Moon was dead within the week – and the ruin of her life if he wasn’t. And she’s wasn’t the only person to receive such a note…

You may recall I recently read Pentecost’s The Obituary Club, and while there were problems with that book, I admired the author’s writing style and fancied trying something else by him. And then I saw on eBay this wonderfully titled book.

There isn’t a real cannibal, by the way, it’s an iffy metaphor for Moon, feeding on his acts of sadism until he overdoes things. It’s a good thing the introduction explains it, because it’s a long way through the book before anyone else uses it. Well, it provides an eye-catching title and made me buy it, so I can’t knock it really.

The hero of the piece is Pierre Chambrun, the hotel manager, running his staff like a well-oiled machine, and, it transpires, being a rather good investigator, using his problem solving skills honed by managing troublesome guests to get to the bottom of the Moon affair far quicker than the local constabulary.

To be fair, there’s two bits to sort out, one that could be spotted by Mr Magoo from one hundred paces and the other than needs a distinct level of psychic powers to work out (although it’s not that important) – the who is unfortunately the obvious bit.

But again, I enjoyed Pentecost’s writing and the book chugs along nicely and doesn’t outstay its welcome. I’m not sure I’m going to race out to find another Pentecost, but if one crosses my path again, I would take a look.

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