Thursday, May 21, 2020

Golden Rain

Golden Rain* (1980) by Douglas Clark

When Miss Holland, the attractive and forceful headmistress of the Bramthorpe College for Girls, is found dead from poisoning, the investigating office assumes it must be suicide or accident. The doors and windows were all locked and there was no signs of anyone else having been around. Of course, Detective Lovegrove also didn't look very hard. Suicide or accident would definitely be a nice and easy verdict and he's all for nice and easy. Except...his boss Chief Superintendent Hildridge and Sir Thomas Kenny both knew Miss Holland rather well. Their girls go to Bramthorpe and Sir Thomas is on the board of directors. And neither one of them believes Miss Holland committed suicide. After the autopsy report shows that she died of Laburnum poisoning (the seeds are sometimes mistaken for dried peas and other foodstuffs), Sir Thomas is even more adamant. Miss Holland was a botanist--other people might mistake Laburnum for something edible, but not a botanist. The men decide to bring in the Yard and Superintendent Masters and his team are sent in.

They have quite a job ahead of them though. Lovegrove is the liaison with the the coroner and he fixed up an immediate inquest before he knew the Yard was coming. And Mr. Gilchrist, the coroner, isn't the type to postpone an inquest without good reason. Unless Masters, Green, and company can produce some good hard facts to throw an accidental death ruling in doubt, they aren't even going to get a chance to investigate the case properly. They get busy immediately and conduct enough interviews to seriously suspect murder--but they're still a bit short on solid facts. Masters manage to pull off a quite tidy little legal maneuver that allows him to convince the coroner to give an open verdict.

Once they start digging, the evidence seems to point towards a girlish school prank gone wrong and the Bramthorpe folks start closing ranks. But Masters suspects that there's more behind a few substituted seasonings than just school girl hi-jinks and he engineers a cozy get-together where all can be revealed. 

The thirteenth entry in the Masters and Green series finds the two lead detectives much more at ease with one another. They've gotten used to each other's quirks and, while, they may take a little jab now and then, it's more in fun than with malice aforethought. Each uses his strengths to good advantage to track down evidence and get unsuspecting members of the community to divulge what they know. It was a definite bonus for me that this had an academic connection--given my fondness for academic mysteries. One of my favorites of the series. ★★★★

*Golden rain is another name for Laburnum...from the appearance of the flowers: 

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza: Silver [Rule #18: Accident/Suicide]
Deaths = one (poisoned)

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