MURDER TAKE THREE is the fourth traditional 1950s-set mystery featuring crime-writer-turned-private-investigator Donald Langham and his delectable literary agent fiancée, Maria Dupre who, in this latest outing are hired by American movie star Suzie Reynard to discover who has been sending death threats to her film director lover. On arriving at Marling Hall in Norfolk, where Suzie is shooting a murder mystery movie, Langham and Maria find the film set awash with clashing egos, petty jealousies, ill-advised love affairs – and, of course, cold-blooded murder.
Guaranteed to appeal to anyone who enjoys classic Golden Age mysteries, MURDER TAKE THREE features an atmospheric and oh-so-civilized country house setting, a delightfully waspish and understated sense of humour, and an eclectic cast of memorably colourful characters. The rigid class and cultural divisions of the time, together with the inevitable social tensions such differences produced, add a delicious frisson to the proceedings: I particularly relished the occasional culture clashes between the British hosts and their baffled American guests.
Encompassing plentiful red herrings, credible suspects and plausible motives, the well-crafted mystery plot reaches back into the 1930s and 40s, highlighting the fact that the terrible events of World War II were still very fresh in people’s minds at this time; their characters moulded and shaped by their often horrific wartime experiences. The identity of the killer and the motive for the murder – when finally revealed in the traditional climactic library showdown scene – came as a genuine surprise.
Elegant, ingeniously-plotted and full of period flavour, I would recommend MURDER TAKE THREE to anyone who loves the novels of those doyennes of traditional British crime writing, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.
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