Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Home to Roost: Review

Walter Haines will tell you that he has everything he could want. He's a mystery writer who has had substantial success and is now fairly well off. He has married a beautiful lady. They settle down to a nice married life in a snug little house with a secluded garden where they can enjoy each other's company. It's all lovely in the garden, in fact. Until Max Ryland, a self-assured and charismatic actor, comes along and steals his beloved wife, Laura, from him. If that wasn't bad enough, Ryland subsequently dumps Laura and creates a situation where it seems impossible for her to return to her husband. Not that Walter wouldn't take her back. He would--in a heartbeat. But she has been humiliated and has lost respect for the man who wouldn't fight for her when it counted.

So Walter has good reason to hate Max Ryland. And when the actor turns up stabbed to death in his cottage it wouldn't be unreasonable for the police to suspect the bitter husband or the woman he humiliated. But Walter has a iron-clad alibi with passport stamps and receipts to prove that he was safely in Portugal (nursing his broken heart and bruised feelings). The police soon find another bitter man who lost his love to the despicable homewrecker and take him in to "help the police with their inquiries." Imagine the surprise of Superintendent Maude (in charge of the case) when Walter calls him up and asks him to come to his house so he can confess to the murder. 

Who knew it would be so difficult to get the police to accept a confession of murder? Walter will have is work cut out for him to break his own alibi and convince the police that he really could have committed the crime in just the way he claims. But which story is true--the alibi or the confession? And if the former, why would an innocent man confess to a crime he didn't commit? Then the other man insists that Walter must be a lunatic and he confesses.

Home to Roost (1976) by Andrew Garve is a difficult novel for my to rate. Walter Haines is a very self-absorbed man at the beginning of the book. He is forced to realize (when it's too late) that he has treated his wife very cavalierly and taken her for granted. He isn't assertive enough to warn Ryland off when it might do some good and instead runs away from the situation--leaving the field to the other man. When Ryland is killed, we aren't sure if Walter's bitterness has accumulated and he really did devise an elaborate plan, complete with alibi. The plan he reveals to Superintendent Maude is typical of the convoluted machinations that might spring from the mind of a mystery author and, at first, seem wholly impractical. But when forced to prove that it could be true--Walter does manage to prove that it could have happened as he claims. It is also possible that he wants to prove, even if only hypothetically, that he could be a man of action and stand up to his rival. 

The story is far more concerned with the psychology of Walter Haines and how this affects the reader's interpretation of events than it is with any actual crime solving. That is what makes it difficult for me. I much prefer a straight crime novel, complete with clues and a nice tidy wrap-up at the end. Garve gives us no such thing. We think we know the truth at the end--but do we really?

I am sure that those who enjoy mysteries with a psychological bent will rate this higher. But ★★ for a solid story with not quite as much crime solving as I would prefer.

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This fulfills the "Car/Truck" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I am definitely a psychological mystery girl. I might like this one a bit more.