High in the Lake District, the Garth family had farmed their land for generations. Dominated by the ill-tempered and stubborn patriarch Robert Garth, the younger members of the family find themselves chafing against his methods of running the farm. One member of the family, Richard, left years ago, having married the daughter of a neighbouring family against his father’s will. Richard has returned to the area in secret, however, and before you can say Montagues Capulets, his father lies dead from a shotgun wound.
Did Richard come back to seek revenge? Or did someone else have a reason to kill Robert? Well, yes, plenty of people had good reasons, but the local police find themselves at a loss to determine which of them, if any, delivered the fatal shot. It falls to Inspector MacDonald of Scotland Yard to find the truth of the matter.
How odd. Just the other day I was writing about Glyn Carr’s A Corpse At Camp Two, saying about how that book, like John Rhode’s Death In The Hopfields, took its time to get to where the murder plot kicks off and I didn’t really care because I was enjoying the journey. Well, this is another book that reminded me of the John Rhode title.
The description of the dales and fells and farming life in general is really well done and the tensions between various family members seem based convincing reasons. Each character is distinct, and seems like a real person, apart from Jonny, the, pardon the archaic phrase, village idiot.
The murder isn’t actually that late in the book, but it takes a while for the local police to call in MacDonald and then for MacDonald to stop staring at fields and cows to get on with doing any real sleuthing, bar some interrogations that never really evolve beyond having a chat with his new farming friends.
It’s a good job that the scenery and its inabitants are so nice, because the villain couldn’t be more obvious if they tried. Well, they were to me – it invokes another comparison with A Corpse At Camp Two, a trick to hide the villain that it’s very hard to pull off and didn’t work in that book either. It can work – Dame Agatha did it exceptionally well in… well, obviously I’m not going to say, am I, but it’s rare that it works for me at least.
All in all, a very enjoyable read that falls short of being a classic due to the lack of surprises in the plot.
I’ve just finished this myself, and I too was somewhat underwhelmed by the plot. I did enjoy the descriptive elements which created a vivid image of the landscape, but it wasn’t enough to *save* the bookfor me. My first disappointment with this otherwise excellent author.