Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Murderer's Choice: Review

Murderer's Choice (1943) by Anna Mary Wells begins with two cousins sharing dinner at a fine restaurant. Frank Osgood has been cautiously enjoying the meal hosted by his cousin Charles. He's waiting to find out what the catch is. Because there's always a catch when it looks like Charles is being nice to him. The two cousins have been at odds since they were young--with Charles always acting superior and despising the younger boy. Nothing changed when they became men...except they saw little of each other. And now, suddenly, Charles is treating him to dinner. What does he have up his sleeve?

When the brandy is served, Frank finds out. His cousin tells him in the most pleasant way possible that he has taken out a life insurance policy and made Frank the beneficiary as well as having made a will in Frank's favor. (Now Frank knows something is up). Then--within the next six months--he plans to commit suicide and arrange it so his cousin will be tried, convicted, and executed for his murder. He even encourages Frank to tell whomever he likes; after all, who will believe him? Frank is quite sure that Charles is fully capable of arranging things just the way he wants. He knew his cousin hated him, but he never imagined he hated him enough to kill himself just so he could take Frank out as well.

Frank lives in terror, trying to imagine what his cousin's diabolical plan might be--and then Charles dies and the death is determined to be natural causes. Frank knows there must be some false evidence somewhere that points to him and rather than wait for the ax to fall, he hires the Keene Detective Agency to investigate. The Agency assigns Grace Pomeroy, formerly a psychiatric nurse, to take the case. She listens to Frank's odd story and, not quite believing it, she begins to investigate. She can find no evidence of an insurance policy or a will. She does find evidence that Charles squandered his money on something, but there's nothing to show what that something was. She's pretty sure he paid off a doctor to say he had heart trouble and set up a ruling of natural causes, but she can't find anything to show that he planted some twist that will finger his cousin as a murderer. 

The investigation digs up a woman who claims to be Charles's wife, a housekeeper who wants the money promised her  by Charles, and the possibility that Charles was poisoned. But was he? And, if so, who did it? Did Frank do it to strike early and prevent his cousin from framing him? Does that even make any sense? There are plenty of twists and turns in the Wells novel and a surprise ending where Grace employs clever questioning and her knowledge of human psychology to find the solution. 

This is an enjoyable and quick read. Grace Pomeroy is one of the few female private investigators and her background as a psychiatric nurse serves her well in her venture into the detective business. She brings quick insight and a very human touch to her work and finds a very humane solution to the mystery. ★★ and 3/4--almost four.

John has reviewed this one as well over at his very fine blog: Pretty Sinister Books. (That's where I first heard of it...I finally got my hands on it and have gotten 'round to reading it.)

This fulfills the "Flower" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card. 


Kate said...

Not heard of this book or author but sounds like it has a very good premise. Is this your only read by them or have you read others?

Bev Hankins said...

Kate: Sorry I didn't see this sooner. This is the first I've read of Wells. She actually has only two mysteries--this one and A Talent for Murder. I have that one as well, but haven't gotten round to it yet.