Saturday, January 7, 2017

Death of a Racehorse: Review

Death of a Racehorse (1959) is the 25th entry in John Creasey's police procedural series starring Inspector Roger West [and, later, Superintendent] of Scotland Yard. It's not ideal to jump into a series mid-stream, but from what I can tell the stories stand well alone. I had no sense of missing vital information about any of the characters. In this particular outing, West has just recently been promoted to Superintendent and is still getting used to the idea. 

When Lady Foley declares in front of witnesses that she will kill her son's racehorse, Shoestring, and Silver Monarch, a horse that looks remarkably like Shoestring, is killed instead--along with a stableman who was charged with guarding the valuable horses, Superintendent West is called upon to sort things out. Having a member of the gentry suspected has made the case a bit of a hot potato for the local police force. Villagers are quite sure that if Lady Foley had done the deed herself then she would never have gotten the wrong horse and she certainly wouldn't have murdered a man in the process. But they're not convinced she didn't hire someone who bungled the job. And then when witnesses come forward to say they saw her at the wheel of her car when the stableman's son was kidnapped and her own son wrecks the car in an effort to hide evidence, things look very black for Lady Foley, indeed. But West believes the evidence may point in other directions and further murders show that the killer is more cold-blooded than Lady Foley appears to be. And the murderer doesn't seem to care who s/he frames for the murder as long as they aren't caught. Was the wrong horse killed? Is there an element of revenge behind the killings? And who is framing whom? These are all questions that West will have to answer before he identifies the culprit.

Despite the fact that I jumped into the middle of the series, this was an excellent introduction to Roger West and his method of criminal investigation. Creasey creates a good balance between descriptive, classic mystery scenes and the standard police procedural. He provides enough twists to keep the reader guessing and still manages to display the clues necessary to solve the puzzle. I did balk a bit at the brutal killings and the total tally is a bit high--but, overall a very satisfying read. Now I just need to go hunt up the previous twenty-four in the series. ★★★★

This counts for the "Dead Body" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card and for the "Framed for Murder" category on the Mystery Reporter Challenge. there are, in fact, efforts to frame more than one person for the crimes. It is also my first entry in Rich's 1959 edition of the Crimes of the Century meme. If you have any 1959 mystery stories on tap for January, please join us with reviews and discussion.

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