Friday, May 24, 2013

Death at Crane's Court: Review

According to the write-up on Eilis Dillon on the Rue Morgue Press site, I've read her three mystery novels out of order.  It is suggested that the reader start with Death at Crane's Court move on to Sent to His Account and finish up with Death in the Quadrangle.  I'm afraid that I'm just a rebel--I've done it in reverse order.  Not on purpose.  It's just the way of things.  I came across Death in the Quadrangle quite some time ago.  And was delighted to add another academic-oriented mystery to my collection.  And a quite nice little snapshot of academic life it was too.  When I discovered that Ms. Dillon had two more mysteries up her sleeve, I immediately put them on the TBF/O (To Be Found/Owned) list and acquired and read them in the order described.  I was a bit disappointed to find that Sent to His Account didn't feature Professor Daly (of Quadrangle fame), but found it to be an equally delightful mystery set in a quiet Irish village.

When I found Death at Crane's Court, I thought that Dillon must have written stand-alone novels only.  The back cover gives no clue whatsoever that Professor Daly was once again waiting for me:

Life seems to have ended for George Arrow. Still in his early thirties, he discovers that he is afflicted with a heart ailment that will make him an invalid for the rest of his life. So he forsakes his native Dublin and moves to a remote residential hotel-spa on the Irish coast, and there prepares to finish out his days in quiet and relative solitude.

Then one evening the owner is found murdered in his room. The events that follow are hectic and ultimately horrifying, and they put Arrow's nerves to so extreme a test that several observers--the local police included--begin to wonder if there isn't something more than meets the eye in George's story of heart disease.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to find Professor Daly residing among the cranky elderly residents at Crane's Court, a seaside hotel that provides a place for invalids, elderly relatives, and part-time residents to let all their idiosyncrasies hang out.  We have the Queen-bee and her entourage who determinedly keep the part-time residents and short-term holiday-goers out of the best tea room.  There is the crazy cat lady who has an unique method of keeping her cat population in check and her flowers flourishing...and who has interesting conversations with the hotel's ghost.  And the Major who monopolizes the bath.  His wife the domineering gardener.  And the shy bird-watcher who would rather look at a beaks and wings than socialize.  Their little world has run like clockwork until the hotel's owner, Mr. Murray dies, apparently of natural causes.

Upon Murray's death his odious nephew inherits the hotel and threatens the status quo.  The residents had hoped for Murray's niece to take over and keep things as they have always been.  But with the advent of John Burden's ownership, the Queen-bee's reign looks to be at an end.  The Major will have to pay extra for extra time in the bath.  The Major's wife loses her small plot of garden.  And Murray has just begun to make changes.  But not to worry.  Someone decides that a change is not as good as a rest and puts an end to the changes....and Burden.

But who did it?  Was the it Mrs. Robinson (aka the Queen-bee) who declared "off with his head"? Was it the cook who had already threatened him with a knife not too unlike the one found sticking out of the corpse?  Maybe Mrs. Fennell (the cat lady) wasn't going to allow Burden to have the mental hospital try to put her away.  Perhaps the Major couldn't stand having his bath-time curtailed?  Or maybe it was George Arrow...killing to ensure that his lady-love would finally inherit the hotel?

Dillon writes a very nice mystery with lots of red herrings.  The quirky characters are fun and it was very nice to have my academic Professor Daly on the scene again to give the police a hand.  A most enjoyable, four-star read.

I try not to look like a university man here....My fellow-guests think of a university degree as a disgraceful preliminary to the blood-sucking life of the bourgeoisie. A sign, moreover, that a man has to earn his own living. ~Professor Daly (p. 21)

He looked at the Queen-bee with renewed respect. She was monumentally built, as are so many redoubtable women. their girth and weight give them courage, he supposed. Her hair was pale blue, and set in a dignified spiral on top of her head. Her mouth was firmly turned down at the corners. Her eyes, which darted about without rest, where those of a wicked old drake, brown and penetrating and deadly.
"She's somebody's mother, I suppose," [George Arrow] said distastefully.
"She is, in point of fact." [Professor Daly] (p. 25)

What a fine thing to be as rude as that with such convictions. ~George Arrow (p. 37)

Mike wished Mr. Burden had chosen another time to be murdered. He was beginning to see that the hour of dressing for dinner might have been expressly designed for persons who need a quiet spell for the commission of crime. (p. 92)

What young woman does not think that anything exciting has something to do with her? ~Professor Daly (p. 117)

{And a lovely little oblique reference to Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers on page 126!}


Peggy Ann said...

I love her books too! I have them all. One left to read. Wish she had written more mysteries.

Bev Hankins said...

These are really good. It was a really nice surprise for me that Professor Daly was in this one too.

Anonymous said...

I kind of love it when authors use favorite characters in other books. It's a fun surprise. I might have to read this one for my mystery challenge!