Sunday, October 26, 2014

Nor Live So Long: Review

Antony Maitland, lawyer and sometime sleuth, and his wife, Jenny, are looking forward to a holiday visit with old friends in the little village of Burton Cecil. Despite having run into a murder there some seven years before, they certainly don't expect more of the same when they come to stay with their crime-writing hostess Emma Antsey. But just before they arrive a young woman by the name of Dilys Jones is strangled and Emma's nephew Stephen Antsey is lined up to advise (and possibly instruct counsel for the defense of) the girl's boyfriend Peter Dutton. The stubborn Inspector Wentworth, appointed to the case from Rothershaw, has fitted Dutton up as suspect #1 and doesn't seem willing to pay much attention to other options. Nearly the entire village believe in Dutton's innocence and want to blame Philip Wainwright, a newcomer who is rather eccentric and who has ran shy of getting acquainted with his new neighbors. After all, nothing like this happened until he arrived.

Stephen has just recently started practicing and has little experience, so he (with Emma's encouragement) approaches Maitland for help and guidance. Maitland is willing to help, but quite frankly tends to agree with the authorities that Dutton does look to be the most likely candidate. But when a second young woman and then a third are strangled in just the same way, Maitland agrees that while he could see the young lover killing his girl in a fit of passion, Dutton doesn't fit either the homicidal maniac profile or the role of cool, calculating murderer killing additional girls to distract from his motive for Dilys's death. Wentworth, however, is very attached to that idea and ultimately arrests Dutton. It isn't until Antony sees the pattern with its inspiration in the murders of the past that he is able to convince the inspector to investigate another far more suitable suspect.

First published in 1986, Nor Live So Long by Sara Woods certainly comes on the scene long past the Golden Age of detective novels. But the small village setting and the various drinks and dinner parties definitely give the novel a Golden Age atmosphere. There is also the very amateur detective feel to Maitland's investigation. For even though he is a lawyer by trade, his questioning of various villagers comes off as very casual inquisitiveness rather than a representative of the court cross-examining them and this makes the novel seem more cozy than crime. 

Not that there isn't crime and dark deeds to be had--very nasty strangulations and fearful villagers bearing pitchforks and burning things down throw a very dark shadow indeed. In the hands of a lesser author, the pitchfork scene might even seem a bit over-the-top, but Woods uses it effectively to convey atmosphere of fear and mistrust that has taken over Burton Cecil in the wake of the murders.

Woods always entertains and delivers solid mysteries with interesting characters. It was nice to see Antony and Jenny on holiday--a busman's holiday as it turns out. Good classic feel.  ★★★

Quotes: can't blame someone else for committing a sin one isn't likely to be tempted to. (Antony Maitland; p. 173)

She knew her husband well enough to be sure already that whatever idea had come to him would prove to be the right one; but she also knew that he had far less confidence in his own instincts than she had. (p. 190)

This fulfills the "Size in the Title" (Long) square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card and gives me two more Bingos!


fredamans said...

The cover feels older than 1986. This story might be too classic for me though. Great review!

Anonymous said...

I read some of her books actually in the 80s but not since - thanks Bev - wow, you are very near the end of the challenge - what a trouper!

Bev Hankins said...

Sergio, yes...four more books total on both cards.