Thursday, August 11, 2016

Invitation to Murder: Review

Leslie Ford's Invitation to Murder (1954) is set against the rarefied air surrounding the rich inhabitants of Newport, Rhode Island. It has as its main ingredients: a well-endowed trust fund, a necklace of star rubies, the disappearance of the patriarch, and four murders.

Fish (James Fisher) Finlay comes back from the Korean War minus a portion of his leg and missing a chunk of his self-esteem. He goes to work for the Merchants & Mechanics Bank and Deposit Company and earns enough respect from Caxson Reeves, Vice President, to be given a watching brief on the James V. Maloney Trust. As soon as he gets involved, he suspects that Nikki de Gradoff, fourth husband of Dodo Maloney, was scheming to gain possession of Dodo's fortune. There are rumors that de Gradoff helped his previous wife to shuffle off this mortal coil.

But...the fortune doesn't actually belong to Dodo. It is being held in trust for Jennifer Linton, Dodo's daughter by her first marriage.  Dodo holds the purse strings and an interest in the trust until Jennifer's 22nd birthday. Dodo, her husband, her husband's cousin, and the cousin's cousin all gather at Enniskerry, the family's enormous Rhode Island estate. Under the glitter of the parties and the social hours, there are tensions, but things really heat up when Polly Randolph, a reporter with information for Fish, is pushed to her death on the rocks below. Dodo has never told her husband that all that pretty money isn't really hers forever and Fish worries about what might happen to Dodo if he remains in the dark--or to Jennifer if de Gradoff has a sudden revelation. Then a funny little French waiter disappears and an attempt is made on Fish's life. These and various other apparently unrelated incidents all add up to a deep-laid plot that will end in another death.

This Ford book makes for pleasant reading. It's not a knock-out book by any standard, but Ford does what she does so well--provides interesting characters in a country house setting. There is plenty of underlying currents and hidden motives, but the seasoned mystery reader won't be fooled for long on who's behind it all (which prevents this from soaring past the three-star mark). If you're looking settle down for an evening's enjoyment with an interesting cast and a good setting, then this is just the ticket. ★★

With a phone on the cover that obviously isn't going to be making any calls [I missed that if it's in the book...], the counts for the "Broken Object" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card. This is also my second entry in the 1954 edition of Rich's Crimes of Century over at Past Offenses. If you have any 1954 crime fiction hanging out on your shelves, then come join us!


Anonymous said...

Completely new author for me Bv - thanks, not sure I've come across the name before at all in fact.

Jacquie said...

Bev, every time I read one of your vintage reviews, I drag another book up from my basement to read! It's got to stop! LOL. I've long had two of Ford's books in my collection that need reading: "False to Any Man" and "Murder is the Payoff." I think I'll try the first first. Thanks always for great reviews! You're amazing!

fredamans said...

I've never heard of this author. I'm not sure if I would get into this one.

Jason Half said...

Hello Bev! I've been enjoying your great website for a few months now, ever since coming across a link to it on another Golden Age Detective fiction site. I have never read a Leslie Ford mystery, and Invitation to Murder sounds like an intriguing if mixed bag. (It also sounds very busy; congrats for providing such a succinct plot summary.)

I'm not sure I've read a mystery set in Rhode Island before... For a few summers I taught a Whodunit mystery fiction course for teens in Bristol on the Roger Williams University campus -- that was a very enjoyable experience. Thanks for all of the time and effort of writing reviews and promoting forgotten mysteries, and I look forward to reading more and checking back often!


Bev Hankins said...

Hi, Jason! Sorry I saw this comment so late. Glad to see you here and thanks for the kind words.