Friday, May 6, 2011
No Wind of Blame: Review
In No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer tragedy befalls the Carter family during an eventful visit from a Russian prince. There is talk of shady business deals, a scandalous blackmail letter arrives, and the grieving widow has a couple suitors already lining up to comfort her in her hour of need. For it seems that no one much cares that Wally Carter was dead. Certainly not Ermyntrude, his flamboyant wife. After the scandals she's endured...well, good riddance to bad rubbish! Her impossibly intense teenage daughter merely sees the situation as another scene in which to use her inherited histrionic abilities. And Wally's ward, Mary, looks to be all lined-up for a nice tidy inheritance. There is also Harold White, sometime business partner of the deceased, who doesn't seem all that concerned that his partner will no longer be able to contribute to their latest venture. No one cares that Wally Carter is dead. But someone cared enough to shoot him straight through the heart. Who could it be? And how did they manage to get into those bushes without being seen or discovered by the protective dog? The superlatively analytical Inspector Hemingway reveals his unnerving talent for solving a fiendish problem.
Either Heyer is back on form in this one or I'm feeling better....in the last mystery I read by her the characters all seemed a little too much. The bickering was too strident; everyone was trying too hard. Not so with No Wind of Blame. The internal bickering is back on target, there are plenty of motives and red herrings, and though it soon becomes obvious who the culprit is (if you use your vintage mystery logic) it's still a puzzle as to how s/he did it.
The most enjoyable part of this novel for me was the interactions of Ermyntrude and her daughter, Vicky Fanshawe, with the rest of the characters. Both women have acting blood in their veins and it shows. Poor Inspector Hemingway is in for a shock when he first meets Vicky...even though he is warned by one of the supporting cast. This is one of the best bits which takes place as Vicky tries on the persona of innocent girl in the hands of the badgering policeman:
Vicky, who had cast herself down on the sofa, raised her face from her hands, and demanded: "Why don't you say something?"
"I haven't had time to learn my part miss," replied the Inspector promptly.
"Inspector, it's a privilege to know you!" said Hugh.
Vicky said fiercely, between her teeth: "If you ruin my act, I'll murder you!"
Later, when Hugh Dering reminds Hemingway that he had warned him, Hemingway retorts: "Seems to me you'd better have warned me to bring along my trick cycle. Quite out of the picture, I was. Well, I've met some queer people in my time, but this little lot fairly takes my breath away. Don't tell me the Duchess of Malfi isn't on the stage, because I wouldn't believe you!"
There is overacting on all sides from Ermyntrude to Vicky to the Russian Prince Varasashvili. Vicky is in rare form, changing her character daily (if not more often). But it isn't truly overdone and it adds lots of color and humor to the story. The supporting characters (even those who aren't vital suspects) are fun and interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I doubt that most readers would dream of how exactly the murder was committed. Four stars out of five.