'What a squalid little story you've made up. If you believe it, why don't you arrest me?'
Bunny flung the challenge at Detective Inspector Ronald Price. He suspected and had accused her of murder. Two murders. She suspected him of being an idiot. They both had good reason for their suspicions.
On the Riviera, Bunny, the free-spirited widow of French poet Raoul Sallust, had met an English lord, Sir Charles d'Estray, accepted his proposal of marriage and returned with him to England as mistress of his vast estate, 'The Park'. To save the declining fortunes of the estate, practical Bunny had introduced the distasteful-but successful-measure of accepting paying guests.
In this atmosphere of bitterly resented change, a poisonous plant has become the bitter brew of murder. And as a quarrelsome cast of d'Estays, their servants and guests, along with the mystified local police, lose themselves in a maze of mutual suspicion, bunny suddenly finds herself not only the chief suspect, bu also a prime candidate for murder.
I had read Death at the Dog by Joanna Canaan earlier this year and quite enjoyed it. This one was a very clever mystery to unravel, but I didn't enjoy it as much. I think it was because I didn't care for any of the characters. The New York Times said: 'Told with a devastating detachment which is equally brutal toward the English gentry, its middle-class emulators and upstart cockney detectives.' Seems to me Ms. Canaan didn't like any of the characters in her own book and it showed. Maybe there was an axe to grind?
'Oh well,' said Patricia, 'we're not great bell-ringers. It means the servants have to come and ask what you want and then go back again, so it saves their legs if you yell. Of course the lodgers are always bell-ringing.'
'To return to the point,' said Price, surprised and not altogether pleased to find among the effete aristocracy such consideration for those misguided enough to serve them, 'can you tell me in what order the riders proceeded to the stable?'
a few pages over we hear Inspector Price thinking...
He had no doubt that Bunny d'Estray was the poisoner, that, hating Elizabeth Hudson for her domestic tyranny and for her influence over the d'Estrays - motive insufficient to a man, perhaps, but typical of the smaller minded female.
And Patricia and her father Sir Charles although they don't treat their servants like servants, are always discussing Bunny's French background and moaning over her vulgarity as one beneath them. Why in the world did he marry her then!?
It all detracted enormously from the story and left me with a very unsatisfied feeling at the end of the book. Really the only good thing about this book was that it was an old Dover paperback and they know how to make them to last!
A DOVER EDITION DESIGNED FOR YEARS OF USE!We have made every effort to make this the best book possible. Our paper is opaque, with minimal show-through; it will not discolor or become brittle with age. Pages are sewn in signatures, in the method traditionally used for the best books, and will not drop out, as often happens with paperbacks held together with glue. books open flat for easy reference. The binding will not crack or split. This is a permanent book.
Too bad all publishers don't use this method!