Heir To Lucifer (1947) by Miles Burton

It was his wife’s health that brought Desmond Merrion to Croylehaven and the Victorian Hotel, but it was meeting Cecil Croyle that meant the repeated visits to Castle Croyle, the home of the Croyle family, the head of which, Lord Croyle, was known by nearly everyone as “Lucifer”. The house is full of generations of the Croyle family – but soon there will be at least one less…

As tragedy strikes the family and an attempt is made on the life of another member of the clan, Merrion becomes more involved in finding the truth. But when another death occurs, this time clearly a murder, it seems that a ruthless individual has a plan that they are determined to bring to fruition – but can Merrion thwart them? Well, no, as it happens…

Review 1499 – blimey – and one thing that I wanted to correct was the lack of John Rhode/Miles Burton reviews over the last year. Last year, I only read Death Of A Bridegroom, and that was on the 4th of January, and I’ve got, well, all of these… 60 John Rhode and 20 Miles Burton books. Actually, there’s 59 in the picture but then I found one upstairs. I’ve read a lot of these but far from all of them. Perhaps the problem is that I’ve read most of the early ones and the later ones tend to be a bit less interesting. Still, it seems a bit daft not to read them…

The Burton books are much harder to find than the Rhodes and this one boded pretty well, as it’s just post-war and the later Burton books are generally stronger than the later Rhodes. There are exceptions, notably the rubbish Early Morning Murder, but this one, thankfully isn’t one of them.

There are a few things worth noting, for example how Merrion’s wife, Mavis, is his confidante for most of this one, rather than Inspector Arnold, and there’s a great moment where he is going to do that supersleuth thing of keeping every theory to himself so she calls him on it. Thereafter we get quite a bit of discussions of his theories, which Mavis more than helps him with. Once Arnold rocks up at the end though, she does step back, which is a shame.

One other strength is the fact that the reader doesn’t really know which way the plot is going to go. One might expect Lucifer to be the first to die, but that’s not the case at all. The deaths are mostly surprising and the plot has some interesting ideas. Finally, there is a really interesting ending – the villain doesn’t suffer a fate that I recall seeing in Golden Age fiction. It’s really odd, but somehow seems to work.

The one downside, as is often the case with Rhode/Burton, is that we are basically told what’s going on. Yes, there are some vague clues towards the villain of the piece but vague is certainly the word. Also, not completely clear after reading the book what exactly happened at the second incident.

Still, this is a very readable book – after abandoning a modern “in the style of Agatha Christie” novel as it was boring me rigid, this was a breathe of fresh air. Expect more of John Street’s work back on the blog in the near future.

Next up – review 1500. I’m open to suggestions – but be quick, I’ve got the reading bug back and I’m going to start something very soon…

2 comments

  1. The fate of the villain seems intriguing. Normally they’re either jailed or commit suicide, no?

    “In the style of Agatha Christie” seems to just mean “a whodunnit with traditional trappings” these days.

    Like

    • Not jailed, not killed, no suicide, not allowed to get away by the sleuth because the crime was justified…

      “In the style of Agatha Christie” barely means that anymore – a whodunnit that tends to be a guessing game with nothing particularly interesting about the crime and half the book devoted to the sleuth’s (love-)life…

      Liked by 1 person

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