Saturday, May 17, 2014

Death at the Medical Board: Review

It is wartime in Britain and Ursula Finton is eager to join a branch of the women's services to do her part for her country. Her family most definitely disapproves--ever since Ursula had a bout of scarlet fever she has been prone to attacks of heart trouble when excited or stressed. Her devoted family fear that she will bring on a fatal attack if she gets herself involved in the war effort.

But Ursula doesn't believe she has heart trouble--the attacks only occur when she's at home--so she goes to a London specialist for a thorough examination. He provides her with a clean bill of health and a certificate for her to give the medical board stating that there was nothing wrong with her heart. The military doctors reach the same verdict when they examine her and are fully prepared to admit her to service. So why did she succumb to an apparent fatal heart attack in the dressing room as she prepared to leave?

Dr. Rachel Williams, a member of the medical board, can't believe that three eminent doctors (including herself) could have misjudged Ursula's health and calls on Dr. David Wintringham to investigate. Wintringham is currently involved in war work of his own and has pretty much given up his dabbling in crime, but when a certain clue comes to light which leads him to believe that Ursula's death may tie in with his current "hush-hush" assignment he willingly begins to dig further.  His investigations lead him to the Finton's country home where motives are thick on the ground. If her death is not related to the mysterious "PH" gang that Wintringham is trying to trace, then it may well be one of her "loving" relatives--eager to inherit the property she currently is heir to. Or perhaps dear old Nanny would prefer that her favorite--Ursula's cousin--were master of the house and land rather than beholden to Ursula for his livelihood.Wintringham and Inspector Staines follow up the a solution that is far more complicated than they imagined.

Josephine Bell's Death at the Medical Board is a typical Golden Age mystery with plenty of red herrings and mysterious-acting potential suspects. It does offer up an interesting method of murder--who would have thought of death by lipstick? [No spoilers here--you find that out quite early.] Her characters are interesting and realistic--the local inspector takes some time to warm up to the "interfering" outsider and the interactions between Staines and Wintringham reflect that. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this one until the end--it's a bit unbelievable and it takes one of Christie's famous twists and adds in the mysterious "hush-hush" gang for flavor and makes it more unbelievable still. Would that the ending were more satisfying...but all in all a fun read and well worth it.  ★★★ and 1/2 stars

This fulfills the "Features a Doctor or Nurse" square on the Golden Vintage Bingo car.

Challenges Fulfilled: Vintage Mystery Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, Bookish TBR, Monthly Key Word, Monthly Motif, Century of Books, Outdo Yourself, How Many Books, My Kind of Mystery, 100 Plus Challenge, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, Women Challenge, Semi-Charmed, Book Bingo


fredamans said...

Seems like a book that would be perfect for a rainy afternoon.
Fab review!

Bev Hankins said...

Thanks, Freda! It was fun--and perfect for the long drive home from Route 66!

Ryan said...

I have never read a book by her, but this sounds like a good place to start.