A Blunt Instrument (by Georgette Heyer)

I've so enjoyed Georgette Heyer's historical romance books over the years, and have recently started reading her crime fiction too. I was able to buy a few more inexpensively from Abebooks this summer - many of them are now out of print, although recently some are being republished in the UK.

'A Blunt Instrument' features Ernest Fletcher as the victim. He is found dead in the opening chapters, his head bashed in by some unknown blunt instrument. It all seems very surprising at first: Ernie was apparently very popular, particularly with women. However it emerges that he had several visitors in the evening leading up to his demise, and it becomes apparent that he was, perhaps, not such a likeable man as he appeared on the surface.

There are some delightful characters in this exciting story. There's Ernie's vague but highly intelligent Nephew, Neville. There's the monocled and forthright crime writer, Sally, and her flirty (but scared) sister Helen. Then there's a Scripture-spouting policeman and Ernie's butler, who is a fellow member of his slightly strange church.

Inspector Hannasyde, who is in charge of the case, is a friendly person with a dry sense of humour, who is usually a step ahead of everyone else. To complicate the case, some false evidence is produced at times as people try, foolishly, to protect their loved ones. But gradually a case emerges where - it appears - there simply isn't any way in which the crime could possibly have happened.

I did actually guess 'whodunit' fairly early in the book, although I wasn't entirely certain if I was right until the end: it seemed too obvious to me, although having spoken to someone else who read the book, it's not obvious to everyone. Perhaps I've read too many Agatha Christie books, and am beginning to understand the mind of a crime writer of this genre!

Anyway, having a pretty good idea of the villain made the book all the more enjoyable in a way, looking out for clues and red herrings, and wondering if I would be proved wrong in the final chapter.

Fast-paced and very well written. I could hardly put this down once I had started. Recommended to anyone who likes light crime fiction from the mid 20th century.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 3rd July 2008. All rights reserved.

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