Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Wilberforce Legacy: Review

Benjamin Wilberforce is an elderly man hoping to spend his final retirement years in peace and quiet in Princeton, San Fernando (a Caribbean stand-in for Trinidad). He had resigned his commission jin the British Army when his brother's criminal activities came to light. He gets his wish until a flurry of telegrams and letters arrive at his hotel from his sister and his nephew. The letters are from his sister warning him that his ne'er-do-well nephew George (son of their crooked brother) will be visiting him soon--probably looking for money--and that her daughter is also on her way just to visit the uncle she remembers fondly. The telegrams, one sent from the United States and one sent from Venezuela--at virtually the same time and date, each claim to be from George with the glad tidings that he will arrive the next day. George #1 will arrive in the morning and George #2 in the afternoon.

Alison Maclean, Mr. Wilberforce's niece, arrives shortly thereafter to find that George #1 has been found murdered, floating in the pool of Wilberforce's hotel and wearing a death mask of the old man's face, George #2 had visited and apparently left, and Benjamin Wilberforce is nowhere to be found. It's no use trying to get answers out of Wilberforce's lawyer and confidante, Mr. Gopal, because he has disappeared too. Faced with these inexplicable events, Alison decides to stay on the island until the mystery is cleared up. A bonus is her interest in Peter Grant, the young lawyer sent out from England to help her get to the bottom of Wilberforce's disappearance. Superintendent Graham and Inspector Vincent with the Fernandan police investigate and are helped by the two young people and by Jim, the Fernandan waiter at Uncle Ben’s hotel, who knows more than anyone about Benjamin Wilberforce and his legacy. Before it's all over, Alison will be kidnapped and drugged, a fire will be set, and someone will come back from the dead.

This is a slow-moving, leisurely read (not unlike life as a retired military man on a Caribbean island) with just a dash of action towards the end. Bell (aka Doris Bell Collier Ball) sets her stage well--good island atmosphere and detail with decently outlined characters, though some of the island inhabitants may run a bit to stereotype. Alison plays the plucky heroine well although she does show a latent tendency to defer to the handsome, strong hero Peter Grant whenever his arms are available for collapsing tearfully. When Peter is not around, she stands up nicely to the bad guys and shows her independence as a good heroine should. There's not much mystery about who is behind the murders and resulting mayhem, but there is a nice surprise in store for the villain as well as a tiny twist for the reader to enjoy. Overall a solid ★★  outing.

First published in 1969--the same year I made my debut, this qualifies for the "Birth Year" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.


fredamans said...

Two George's? I hope that doesn't make the story slightly confusing. Might not be fast-paced enough for me though. Great review!

Bev Hankins said...

Of course, the both aren't really George...part of the mystery is finding out who the real nephew is.

Anonymous said...

This sounds much more fun that the Bell novel from the 1930s I tried last year - thsnks Bev!

Unknown said...

This reminds me of another series about a retired MI5 spy that was made in to a TV show. He also retired to the Caribbean. Bill Nighy plays the main character, but I can't remember the name of the series.