Friday, November 10, 2017

Murder at Beechlands: Review

When his car becomes snow-bound at the beginning of Murder at Beechlands (1948) by MaureenSarsfield, Inspector Lane Parry of Scotland Yard rejoices at the sight of lights gleaming through the snow-laden trees. Well...briefly rejoices anyway. Because as far as he can tell, he has stumbled upon a country asylum--all the lights at Beechlands (in truth a country house turned hotel) are ablaze and the inmates are stampeding in and out of the building, frollicking in the snow. He soon discovers that the antics are in aid of a homecoming celebration for war hero Wing Commander Lawton "Lawty" Lawrence.

But somebody wasn't really feeling all that celebratory at Lawty return and treated the hero to a well-placed  knock on the head with an ice hammer before shoving his body out the windo and into the snow. In fact, once Parry discovers that the hotel is cut off from any outside members of law and order and begins investigating, he soon learns that virtually everyone in the hotel had reasons to want Lawty dead--from the hostess of his party, hotel owner Annabel Adams, to Christie Layne, the quiet young woman he seduced and promptly forgot, to a cuckholded husband. Other suspects include a thief working as a waiter at the hotel, the chef who is as French as french fries, two potential investors in the hotel, a Hollywood actress, and a scantily clad woman who collects men and jewelry (not necessarily in that order).

Parry has to work at great disadvantage without access to the usual support and spends a great deal of time lurking about the house. But there are plenty of clues to be had and Parry sifts them to pinpoint the culprit. The story is fun and filled with extraordinary characters. And Parry is an interesting investigator. Sarsfield does a fair job with clueing and plot.

I would have enjoyed it a lot more, though, if someone had format edited the Rue Morgue Press edition (or the original--if this reprint follows the formatting faithfully). The chapters just flow along in huge chunks as though it's all of a piece and yet the scene and/or the speaking characters may change often within the chapters. There are no page breaks to indicate a change of scene and it was a bit jarring to be with Parry in the snow in one sentence and immediately be upstairs at Beechlands in the next. It ruined the rhythm of the story and made it difficult to keep up with the action. Overall, a decent read.★★

[Finished on 11/7/17]
This fulfills the "Flashlight" (small and in the man's hand on the cover) category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.


Kate said...

Having quite the Rue Morgue Press Fest at the moment? I remember enjoying this fairly well in terms of its characters and plot, but like you perhaps struggling with the writing style/structure.

Bev Hankins said...

Yeah--I picked up several of these reprints quite a while ago and thought maybe I should read some of them (especially if I can find something for the scavenger hunt on the covers!).

Peggy Ann said...

I liked these Sarsfield books. Love the covers!