Monday, November 24, 2014

Lament for the Bride: Review

Judith Kingsley marries well-known financier Horace Fescue on the rebound. She had fallen in love with Charles Darlington, but he never came back to her as promised from a supposed trip to break off his engagement to another woman. And she never heard another word from him

On the day of their wedding, Fescue takes his bride to his house in St. Augustine for their honeymoon where she immediately see Darlington and his fiancee. In fact, the honeymoon is crowded with people who know either Fescue or Judith--from Fescue's ex-wifer, to the Darlington family (who have reason to hate Fescue) to Fescue's factotum--a man who seemed downright evil to Judith and whom she had asked Fescue to dismiss. He had told her he had. None of the servants at the St. Augustine house seem to approve of the new bride and none of them are friendly. 

Before their first night is over, Judith overhears Fescue telling his ex that he deliberately brought Judith to St. Augustine knowing Darlington was in town, that he had intercepted a letter from Charles meant for Judith and he knew of their ill-fated love. It seems that Judith's new husband has a cruel streak and is going to enjoy torturing his bride with the nearness of the man she cannot have. Judith decides to leave him at once and have her marriage annulled...but before she can escape Fescue is shot and he tells her that Darlington is the man who did it. If Judith leaves him, he will turn Darlington over to the police. If she stays, he will play dumb.

Judith feels caught in a trap and determines to find out who really shot her husband. She doesn't believe Fescue for a moment when he claims it was Darlington. Before she can make much headway, Fescue begins receive death threats ("You are going to die"), another attempt is made on the recovering man, and then Hudson is killed. Who is behind it all? Is it Darlington's fiancee, the pretty girl with the scarred cheek? Could it be Darlington's sister, who has reason to hate Fescue for ruining her family? Or maybe Fesuce's ex-wife still has reason to want him dead? Then there's the mystery man Chesneck who claims to have known Fescue's brother--does he know a few secrets as well?

Inspector McKee is in the case from the beginning and comes to Florida to unravel all the clues. But the more clues he discovers, the worse it looks for Darlington and Judith is afraid that neither she nor the man she really loves will escape the traps laid for them.

This novel is much more of a romantic suspense mystery than others I've read by Reilly. While it is still a good read--Reilly is a more than competent writer--I really enjoyed her earlier books more with their focus on the police  procedural rather than the damsel in distress. McKee has generally had a damsel who needed rescuing in each of the cases, but they haven't been so very tense. I would have appreciated more focus on McKee and his efforts to discover the killer than to have spent so much time with Judith and her constant fear that Darlington would be arrested any minute. Decent mystery with a twist at the end. ★★


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Just started reading Reilly but haven;t come across this one - thanks Bev, sounds very solid indeed!

J F Norris said...

Wow! I've never seen the hardcover with a DJ for this title. I own the Pocket Books edition. Not one I've read yet. A discussion on Mystery*File a while back mentioned that in her later career she turned towards the kind of books Phyllis Whitney is known for. Guess they were right. I only know her very early books.

An aside: Horace Fescue is a very strange name for any character. Too sibilant. I'd never use it in a radio play. :^)

fredamans said...

Interesting premise. Glad it turned out alright for you. Great review!

Bev Hankins said...

Another surprise for John! Wow, I'm having quite a year. ;-) I lucked into this lovely (fine condition) hard back with dust jacket at my local library's used book shop--I've stumbled across some real treasures there. This one is decent, John--but I do prefer her more straight police procedurals over the romantic tension.