Sunday, November 18, 2018

Death of My Aunt: Review

Death of My Aunt (1929) by C.H.B. Kitchin

At 25, Malcolm Warren is already a bit of a stick-in-the-mud, eccentric, old-fashioned stockbroker. The most excitement in his life has come with the ups and downs of the stock market. But he's always been the favorite of his very rich and extremely autocratic Aunt Catherine and he gets along with old girl. They've always understood each other, so when she summons him for a visit he goes. She wants advice on her investments and Malcolm is the only one she trusts to do the right thing. Little does he imagine the excitement in store for him.

During his stay with Aunt Catherine, he is tricked into handing her a fatal dose of poison. Malcolm must turn amateur detective to prevent himself from being hauled away as suspect number one. He also has a fondness for Aunt Catherine's young husband--a man none of the rest of the family likes and whom they would love to see put away as auntie's killer. So, Malcolm wants to save two people from the gallows and see the proper villain charged with the crime. But who is it? Our hero shares a list of those who might have an interest in Catherine's death--most of whom would benefit most if either Malcolm or Uncle Hannibal were charged with the crime. There are a whole slew of family members--from Malcolm's own mother and another sister and brother to various nieces and nephews to Aunt Catherine to a couple of solicitors with an interest in the doings. 

Malcolm, in the true spirit of a detail-minded businessman, also provides the reader with timelines for the substitution of the poison and in-depth cases against various suspects. He even makes a case against Uncle Hannibal and sets up a test to allow Hannibal to prove his innocence. Will he be sorry he let his uncle off the hook?

H.R.F. Keating thought this one was good enough to make his Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books list. Steve over on Mystery*File thought it dated, but still a lot of fun to read. Though he does say that he doubts that today's readers will find much of interest. He's right. While I did appreciate Malcolm's run-down of timelines and motives and whatnot and the plotting is fairly decent, there just isn't a lot to get hold of in these characters. Malcolm isn't world's most engaging protagonist and none of the other characters are at all interesting or sympathetic. Not even poor Uncle Hannibal. Part of the problem is that Kitchin doesn't spend a great deal of effort on characterization. A decent mystery--interesting enough for those of us who enjoy vintage mysteries and who want to check out the books on Keating's list. But not one that you need to go out of your way to track down. [Am I damning with faint praise? I suppose so...] ★★ and 3/4.

[Finished on 11/7/18]

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