“There was something wrong. His mistress was no longer the same. He stepped delicately to one side. Adolphus was a dainty cat, and did not want to soil his paws.”
Need a break? Where better to go to than Eastrepps, a beautiful English seaside town, the perfect place for a holiday, were it not for the fact that a serial killer is on the prowl. Mary Hewitt is the first to die, stabbed in the side of the head, but she is far from the last.
Hiding in Eastrepps is a man with a guilty secret, a man with many enemies in the town. But is he desperate enough to kill? Or is there someone else in town with murderous intent?
Yes, I’ve reviewed this before. You can read that review here if you like (or use the search function over there on the right). I do that sometimes – The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd was the most recent example, as part of my Poirot Countup, and there are a few Brother Athelstan books that I’ve taken second looks at. The reason here is because my bookclub chose this one, and as it’s been an age since I’ve read it, and I’d (almost) forgotten who the murderer was, I thought I’d give a second opinion.
It’s an interesting book, following a police investigation that only seems to move in the obvious directions. There’s a local individual who is dancing on the edge of sanity who has been escaping every night from his locked room – so we’ll look at him first, fooling no reader whatsoever.
What I had forgotten is a significant chunk in the second half that follows a trial, this time a trial of a more convincing suspect, that has a distinctly surprising ending, albeit not one that seems to bother many characters in the book, which is a bit odd, as the characters in the book are well constructed for the most part. Inspector Wilkins, our main sleuth, is the main exception, but he’s just there to move the plot along really.
Overall, this is a good serial killer whodunit, albeit not a clued one, with a decent motive that just about verges on the right side of being feasible. Not every Francis Beeding book is a classic – The Norwich Victims is, The Four Armourers definitely isn’t – but this is definitely a book worth trying. There are plenty of copies of the Arcturus Press reprintout there for not too much, so do give it a try.
I always really liked this one and I recall the critic Vincent Starrett raving about it. There’s a description of a knife coming down, as seen in a reflection, that has always stuck with me (hope my memory is right on that by the way). The Beeding duo wrote a bunch of books of course, including THE HOUSE OF DR EDWARDES, the (loose) basis for the Hitchcock suspense perennial, SPELLBOUND, one of his very few whodunits in fact.