Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne confronts amateur detective, the doctor Eustace Hailey, with a series of “impossible murders” to solve. It begins with a locked room scenario: Mary Gregor, sister of the laird of Duchlan, is found stabbed to death in her securely locked bedroom. There is no weapon on the scene, no apparent way anyone could enter, and the murderer has left only one small fish scale behind as a clue. At first, there is no apparent motive: Everyone assures the inspector sent to investigate that Mary Gregor was an exemplary woman, charitable to all. Then, it seems like there are too many motives. The inspector sent to investigate is puzzled, ultimately leaving it to Eustace Hailey to resolve the matter.
Wynne’s detective is somewhat unusual in the amateur detective class; he likes and respects the official investigators sent out to solve the murder and is content to stand aside when asked, only starting his serious work after he has been invited. There is none of the now-traditional conflict between the two: He fully appreciates the officials’ position that this is their job, they are capable of doing it, and they need the credit for doing so. He remains a calming influence on everyone around him as he seeks the murderer.
The major focus in Murder of a Lady is the puzzle: The characters are only developed so far as they serve the plot. And what a plot it is, full of impossibilities, troubles from the past, tormented lovers, and a slew of mixed motives. There is not just one impossible murder: The following murders seem equally impossible. In the course of the characters’ investigations, Wynne brings up several plausible solutions before the matter is fully cleared up.
Murder of a Lady is another entry into Poisoned Pen Press’s publication of The British Library Crime Classic collection. Out of print since 1931, the novel is perfect for readers who love Agatha Christie but who have made their way through all her works—or who just want a change of pace while keeping to the classic, sleek, constructions of the era.
Murder of a Lady is out on Feb 2, 2016. Look for it on Amazon.