Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Red for Murder: Review

N: What's he [Inspector Brent] done? I think he's nice.
DF: You would. Flappers and old women do. But they haven't to mess about with the corpses he can't help producing at far too frequent intervals from silk hats and thin air. (Nora [Lady Lenora Vane-Cuff; Dr. Findley)

Red for Murder (1957) by Harold Kemp is next mystery in the Inspector Jimmy Brent series after Death of a Dwarf which I discovered on a shelf at Half Price Books in 2014 and read last January. As I mentioned when I reviewed Dwarf, there isn't much information available on Kemp out on the internet. And I haven't found anything new anywhere else my last review. If anyone come up with something, I'd love to hear about it. 

As the title indicates, red is an important point in this mystery. There's the missing red ruby--worth a rajah's ransom--and the red heifers which play a part in the drama and the tell-tale bloody marks that speak volumes to Jimmy Brent and the red-haired detective-constable who goes beyond the call of duty to help his inspector. Inspector Brent is called upon by his superintendent to baby-sit Lady Falcongill precious diamond necklace--which just happens to have the aforementioned ruby dangling as an added pendant. The jewels will be on display in honor of Tony Vane-Cuff's coming of age party as they have been for every coming of age party to date.

Whenever the young Lord Falcongill-to-be comes of age, the manor house puts on a bang-up party. Everyone from the village--from the high and mighty to the hoi p oloi--is invited to a grand bullock roast with dancing and drinking, carousing and toasts to the young master's health. The common folk mill about on the grounds and get their feast in the barn while those of higher rank dine round the large table in the manor's dining hall. The current Lord Falcongill has asked for discreet policemen to be on hand just for safety's sake. And even though Brent thinks the "sparklers" as he calls them are a mighty big temptation, he doesn't expect them to go missing while still in the house. His concern is directed to when Lord and Lady Falcongill would be toddling down to the barn to wish their guests well.

And perhaps that's what the thief (or thieves) expected any detectives to expect. Because the lights go out in the house, Lady Falcongill cries out, a door is opened and then shut, one of the guests disappears, and so do the sparklers. Brent and his detective team will be led a merry chase with all sorts of excitement: two corpses make an appearance, the reappearance of the diamonds--but not the ruby, the apparent escape of a mystery man across the moor, the question of who was the man in the bed at Aunt Kate's house, and what happened in the heifer's barn. It all ends with a surgical operation and chase through archaeological burrows and a pursuit of a murderer in a fast car.

This is the sixth book of seven by Kemp and a solid follow-up to Dwarf. The characters are just as good in this outing and we have the added bonus of Jimmy Brent's interactions with Nora Vane-Cuff. Nora is a no-nonsense, plucky heroine type who helps the detective without getting in the way. The one draw-back (and which shaves off a half-star) is the mystery itself. Oh, it's quite clever and I'm not sure you'll ever find a jewel stolen and stashed in quite this way again--but it's pretty well telegraphed. Kemp didn't do quite the job of mystification that he managed to pull off in Dwarf. Still, a highly enjoyable read and if you ever get the chance to read a Kemp mystery, I suggest you do so. ★★ and a half.

This fulfills the "Any sort of Jewelry" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card as well as the "Color in the Title" category for the Mystery Reporter Challenge.

List of all Challenges fulfilled: Vintage Mystery Challenge, Color Coded Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, Mystery Reporter, Cloak & Dagger, My Kind of Mystery, What An Animal, 100 Plus Challenge, Outdo Yourself, Triple Dog Dare, A-Z Mystery Author Challenge, 52 Books in 52 Weeks,

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Recommendation noted. :-)