Monday, April 27, 2015

The Case of Colonel Marchand: Review

To be able to tell when a man is lying is one of the most difficult parts of my job. (p. 205)

And Inspector MacDonald of Scotland Yard proves most adept at sifting the lies from the truth in the The Case of Colonel Marchand by E. C. R. Lorac. Macdonald is called in when the Colonel is found dead in his well-appointed drawing room after he has entertained a beautiful young woman at an elaborate tea. The Colonel is well known for his weakness for women, but no one in his household will admit to knowing who his latest conquest was. And the copper-haired lady has disappeared. Even after she is found, questions remain about what really happened at the Colonel's tea party.

Nearly all of the Colonel's servants and associates arouse Macdonald's suspicions--from the butler and three menservants who played bridge below stairs while waiting for the bell to sound to the chauffeur who had no business going upstairs at all to the secretary who got more and more tangled in his lies to the out-of-favor nephew (who also happens to be the heir) to unknown young man who had tried to weasel money out of the old man to the lawyer who seemed determined to make Macdonald  suspect the nephew. Each of them provide Macdonald with a piece of the puzzle--whether they intend to or not. There don't seem to be a lot of physical clues, but the Inspector makes the most of what there are: the missing pearls which had belonged to the Colonel's mother, the empty Cartier box lying on the tea table, a metal tube found in the cushions of a chair, and the remains of cat.

Unfortunately, unless I provide you all with a huge spoiler, I can't tell you why I love this one so much. Let's just say that Lorac (aka Edith Caroline Rivett) makes good use of a standard mystery trope and pulls it off with aplomb and fair play. She displays the clues for the reader and, really, as a long-time reader of Golden Age mysteries, I'm well enough acquainted with the customs of the times that I should have recognized the primary clues paraded under my nose. But I didn't--and that makes it all the more fun. I thoroughly enjoyed Macdonald's investigations into the amorous Colonel's life and the Inspector's interactions with various peripheral characters. Nicely plotted. A highly recommended entry in Lorac's mystery offerings. ★★★★

With "March" in the title, this fulfills the Time/Day/Month/Etc." square on the Golden Vintage Bingo card. And my first Bingo!



8 comments:

bloodymurder said...

Never read this author before but am of course introgued because of the stuff you won't give away! Will give it a go - thanks.

fredamans said...

With how much you enjoyed it, that alone draws me in. Great review!

Jacqueline Fiedler said...

I am intrigued to read this also, based on your review, however on checking the used book prices on it, I'll have to take your word for it. You've got a valuable book there! :)

Bev Hankins said...

Jacqueline....I thought I saw that it was available as an e-book when I was searching for info on it (if you do e-books).

Jacqueline Fiedler said...

Thanks, Bev, I will recheck that. It didn't come up when I searched originally. I do have a Kindle.

Bev Hankins said...

I may have misunderstood...This site has a discussion of it (http://www.thetiger.fi/libri-2820-1995-the_case_of_colonel_marchand/). It appears that one of the commenters (Dr. Marie--comment with the cover picture) is saying it should be available. I don't do e-books, so I didn't try to sign up.

John said...

I found a copy of BATS IN THE BELFRY by Lorac last month and unfortunately have to keep putting off reading it. But learning about this true rarity (lucky you finding a copy - or was this from a library?) has piqued my interest. I'll have to read BATS... next. The only Lorac book I've read so far has been CHECKMATE TO MURDER. I only remember it was about a painter and his wife and a murder that took place during a blackout in WW2 era England. I liked the creepy mood she sustained and the unusual characters, but the mystery was not so thrilling really.

Yvette said...

Oh, definitely one for me, Bev. Now to find a copy. Sometimes (well, most times actually) I'm just in the mood for this sort of mystery. If it's well done I'm in, hook, line and sinker. Thanks for the intro, kiddo. :)