The Ninth Enemy (1948) by Francis Vivian

When Richard Huntingdon, a man of some local standing, is shot in the woods, suspicion is cast on everyone in the locale. It seems that almost everyone who might have had a motive for murder was in the vicinity, apparently lured there by anonymous notes. While Huntingdon had a reputation as a good and charitable man, he had a number of enemies, including the Bishop of Northcote himself. But which of them had enough reason – and opportunity – to kill him?

Inspector Knollis actually seems to be pleased that his weekend in the country is interrupted by a juicy murder investigation, but there are problems aplenty in tracking down the murderer from past secrets, unhelpful suspects and multiple toy boats. It seems that Knollis is up against a cunning murderer – even if he identifies them, will he ever be able to prove it?

It seems longer than five days that the blog was in action. Reading is proving very difficult at the moment, due entirely to other things getting in the way. As with every September, the start of the school term gets in the way, but for whatever reason, my brain has been all over the place, so this book, the fourth Inspector Knollis mystery (out of ten), this month’s book club title, seemed ideal.

This is the sixth Knollis title that I’ve reviewed to date, and I’ve enjoyed them all. Good, straightforward murder mysteries, with decent deduction and clues for the reader to play along with. Knollis is an inoffensive chap, whose primary traits seem to be not telling his Sergeant what he thinks is going on and getting a bit too excited when there’s a dead body nearby. And he can be rather blunt at times with suspects when they’re talking crap, although that backfires when he accuses someone of murder and they just come back with “Prove it!”

The tale doesn’t hang around with the local Inspector Bamford donning the Captain Exposition uniform and giving Knollis an info-dump on the murder case and then we meet the suspects one by one. I did like the way that every time we meet a suspicious individual (i.e. everyone who’s not a child, a policeman or dead) it seems that there another person pulling their strings.

It’s not perfect, especially when one reads it in small chunks. There’s some very weird backstory for a couple of suspects involving multiple marriages, legal and otherwise, that I was struggling to understand the point of, other than to obfuscate the plot, and one aspect of the killer’s plan designed to frame someone else did seem to be optimistic on their part that Knollis would work out enough to be end up suspecting the wrong individual.

So it’s not the best of the Knollis books, but I still enjoyed it regardless. Vivian may not have written flashy or ground-breaking detective stories (although the use of the word prostitute in a traditional mystery isn’t that common) but it’s solidly entertaining and never boring. A shame I’ve only got a few of these left…

The Ninth Enemy, along with the rest of the Knollis books, was recently reprinted by Dean Street Press.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.