‘Should detectives go to parties? Was it consistent with the dignity of the Yard? The inspector tossed for it―and went.’
Chief Inspector Macdonald has been invited to a party, although he has to attend under a pseudonym. All the guests – made up of mystery novelists and other crime specialists – have been given new identities for the evening by Graham Coombe, the celebrated publisher. None of them have met before, and ahead of them is an evening of solving mysteries and puzzles set by their host. Until, that is, the power goes out and “Samuel Pepys” is found dead.
Macdonald is convinced the death was murder, but with nobody in the party knowing anyone else – apparently – motives are thin on the ground. Who was the stranger seen entering the party by a number of witnesses? What exactly was “Pepys” up to? And can Macdonald get to the bottom of things?
The second “come to the party to play some games, watch out for the murderer” book in a row for me after The Invisible Host. It’s another E C R Lorac book from the British Library Crime Classics range, this one having never being reprinted since it was published in 1937. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the Lorac books that I’ve read, but this one… I can sort of see why it hasn’t been reprinted.
The games that are played at the party pre-murder are very literary and not really ones that the reader sees enough of to play along with, but the problem I found was the pacing. After the murder, Macdonald spends too much time away from the various suspects which unfortunately gave me the chance to forget all about their details until they return later in the narrative. Unlike The Invisible Host, which admittedly is a very different book, too many of the suspects end up being irrelevances to the plot.
There’s a neat idea at the heart of it that leads to the murderer being revealed, and a complication that does a nice job confusing the mystery for the reader (although it’s been done better elsewhere) but overall, I think this is the weakest Lorac title that I’ve read so far. It’s great that such titles are back in print again, and I look forward to the next Lorac, but this one didn’t really work for me.