Murder At Eight Bells (1939) by Ernest McReay

One of the finest novels of the day” – well that’s what the blurb says. Brace yourself…

At eight bells, which confusingly is midnight (or five other times during the day, but midnight in this case), murder struck on the ocean liner “Borsini”. Ken Harley, the third officer, found himself involved in protecting the beautiful Patricia from villainous fiends who are looking for some balls.

Sorry, couldn’t help myself, it’s been a long week.

Who was the mysterious killer? Why is he seeking the nest of Chinese ivory balls? Why was Harley shanghaied? Who is the prisoner on the private yacht? Why does the murderer think a little black mask will stop Ken from recognising him? Especially because he is literally the most obvious murderer ever…

Well, it’s not been a very Golden Age-y month for me, so I thought I’d take a look at this one. I bought it a month or so ago for a few pennies – really can’t remember why, probably in a buy something extra, get 5p off the overall postage deals. Ah, that’s right, an online seller had a sale on and I just put “murder” into the search bar. Almost forgot. And, to be honest, I’ve almost forgotten this book after reading it.

As far as I can see, it’s the only book that Ernest McReay ever wrote, and it’s perfectly passable. More of an adventure than a mystery, although there is a definite whodunit as to the murderer’s identity, it starts off promisingly enough with some escape, chase, capture jiggery-pokery. It grinds to a halt when Harley and his love-interest get caught on a yacht and they end up staying there basically being tied up for too long.

The other part that makes it drag is the blindingly obvious identity of the killer. There’s a half-arsed attempt to bring another suspect into the mix late on, but a) it’s not convincing and b) they soon get killed anyway. I’d ask if anyone else felt the same way but I seriously doubt anyone else will have read this and I doubt I’ve convinced you to try it…

“One of the finest novels of the day” – well, maybe on a day that no other books were published.

6 comments

  1. Thank you for this entertainingly devastating review. It was cathartic for me because last evening I read one of the most irritating mysteries I’ve read in a long time, populated mainly by half-wits and narcissists. I won’t name it here, because it appears in the much-loved (including by me) British Library Crime Classics series. Let’s just say that it never really got off the ground. Love your reviews, and awaiting my pre-ordered copies of Flynn numbers 11 to 14 with eagerness.

    Liked by 1 person

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