A Blunt Instrument is another delightful vintage 1930s mystery. Heyer is a master of witty and interesting characters. In this outing Neville Fletcher, the victim's nephew and one of the primary suspects, leads the cast in charming backchat and succinct bon mots. Although it initially looks like no one could possibly have a motive to bash Ernest Fletcher, the "perfect gentleman," over the head, Superintendent Hannasyde begins uncovering dirty little secrets right and left. Soon it becomes apparent that almost everybody had a motive, but now the difficulty lies in the fact that according to the established times and movements nobody could have done it. A pretty problem indeed. It isn't until a second murder occurs and Hannasyde realizes what the two murders have in common that all becomes clear.
In addition to Neville, who makes it his business to drag red herrings and entertaining conversation into the picture, we have a detective novelist who just wants to see how the police really operate (while doing her best to shield her sister), a police constable who quotes scripture and sees sin and corruption everywhere, and Sergeant Hemingway (Hannasyde's right-hand man) who can't help but egg the constable on. Who killed Ernest Fletcher? Was it the nephew (Fletcher's heir) who has been in debt up to the eyeballs? Or perhaps the novelist's sister who hoped to make a search for those inconvenient IOUs? Maybe it was the sister's husband--more jealous of Fletcher than he lets on? Then again, it might be the ex-boyfriend of a young starlet whose heart was broken by Fletcher--not because he cared for the girl you understand, but in an effort at blackmail that went wrong. As usual, a lot depends on who's telling the truth and what time everything really happened.
This is a fast-paced, fun little period mystery. Certainly not an intellectual challenge, but light and breezy and Heyer does have a way with words. She is adept at producing just the right atmosphere and just the right dialogue. Four stars out of five.