The Figure in the Dusk (aka A Case for Inspector West; 1951) by John Creasey
A ruthless killer is stalking the wealthy and he has a brilliant plan. Jump out in front of their fancy cars, force them to stop, and then insist that they give you a ride...at gunpoint. Once you're sure they're rich, direct them to a lonely spot, kill them, take everything of value, grab their keys, and then go rob their houses. Nice and simple--and nearly foolproof. But is the plan really as simple and direct as it seems?
It isn't long before Inspector Roger West discovers a link between the murdered men...a link that's more than just wealth. All are connected to the same family and it seems there is a dirty little secret that might give cause for someone to seek revenge. But the very people he's now trying to protect tell him lies and mislead him and one of his officers is falling in love with a suspect making his job a little bit harder. Just when he thinks he's got the killer locked up, another murder takes place and West finds that he needs to look at the puzzle from another angle.
A highly suspenseful entry in the Inspector West series--full of action and a more thrillerish atmosphere. For quite a bit of the book, it seems that West is just one step behind and we begin to wonder if our detective has met his match. Of the West books I've read so far, this one has the least attention to making a mystery and leaving clues about. We pretty much know who the killer must be from the beginning--what we don't know is the extra details that set the plot in motion. I don't think Creasey has been quite fair with this. I definitely didn't see the final twist coming and even once I finished the book I couldn't really look back and say "Oh...I missed that clue."
Now, that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book. I did. It's a good story and I very much appreciate the way West handles the case--as well as how he handles the different personalities involved (including his lovesick assistant). He has a great deal of compassion for some of the suspects in the case as well. A very good--and slightly unusual--addition the inspector's cases. ★★★★
First line: It was dusk, and the man moved from the side of the road, making Arlan start.
Last line: He tossed his cigarette into the fireplace, and slid his arm around her, drew her close and found her lips.
Deaths = 9 (five shot; two natural; two hanged)