Monday, December 7, 2015

The Monday Theory: Review

The Monday Theory (1983) is the 19th entry in Douglas Clark's Masters and Green detective series. The fashionably liberal and somewhat spiteful London columnist Rhoda Carvell and toy boy lover are found dead in her Sussex cottage. Her latest column was overdue and the application for her divorce was set to be heard in court--but her editor would have to do without and the hearing would go on without her. When the usual newspaper copy didn't show up on theTuesday as expected, Golly Lugano sent cub reporter Derek Heddle to Rhoda's cottage to try and get hold of the story. He found a story all right...but not the one he expected.

Thinking he'd get a big scoop on the other papers, he called the Assistant Commissioner to tip off the Yard. Detective Superintendent George Masters and Senior Scene of Crime Officer Bill Green are sent to see what the reporter really knows (and to put a flea in his ear over waking the AC up at his home).  What they find out is that Rhoda and her playmate were found peacefully in bed having died from arsine poisoning (the gaseous form of arsenic). But was it just a deadly accident? A suicide pact? Or did someone arrange the scene? Masters, Green, and their team will have to go on a treasure hunt (quite literally) for clues before they'll have their answer.

Where does the "Monday theory" come in? Well, the police surgeon can't give Masters as narrow a time frame for the time/day of death as he would like and he starts looking for outside evidence to narrow things down. When Rhoda's lawyer brings up a point of law relevant to the divorce decree, Masters realizes that the day of the murder may reveal the motive. He's plumping for Monday...but is he right?

While I still find our detective team quite engaging and I enjoy their interactions as a group, I must say that this particular outing isn't my favorite. A competent mystery with an unusual murder method and interesting locale, but lacking a bit in a few categories. One difficulty is that suspects are not exactly thick on the ground. There are few to choose from and it soon becomes obvious that unless Clark has been keeping secrets about some of them under his hat there are even fewer who could have the necessary qualities/knowledge/what-have-you (I'm being intentionally vague to keep from spoiling) to have done the deed. Clark does his best to provide a surprise ending--but given the way he approaches the denouement, it's not hard to see that a twist must be coming. Either that or a very anticlimactic ending. 

The other--mostly just distracting--point is the side-story involving Masters's wife Wanda and the rather unsuitable couple she's taken up with. The Cartwrights are unpleasant people who make Masters uncharacteristically grumpy and cause unnecessary tension between the superintendent and his wife. The have been created primarily to illuminate one piece of evidence for Masters in one of those moments of lucky coincidence that do happen in real life but seem so forced in fiction.

This fulfills the "Time/Day/Etc. in the Title" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card and provides two more Bingos. Only one more square to go!

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I just don't know if I can get into this one. Great review though.