Death in the Stocks (by Georgette Heyer)

I very much enjoy re-reading my Georgette Heyer books every six or seven years. Most of them are light historical fiction of the Regency romance genre, but she also wrote twelve crime fiction novels set in the middle of the 20th century. I only discovered them about fifteen years ago, and have collected most of them second-hand since then.

I last read ‘Death in the Stocks’ in 2003, so had forgotten the story and, more importantly, the protagonist of the crime. The book starts with a bizarre murder, when the body is found in some old village stocks. As the story unfolds, we learn that Arnold Vereker was not much liked, and that several of his relatives and associates have motives for bumping him off, as well as the opportunity.

Superintendent Hannasyde of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate, and joins forces with the young lawyer Giles Carrington who is a cousin to the victim. He is called in to support his cousin-by-marriage Antonia and her brother Kenneth, who are half-sister and half-brother to Arnold. Antonia was angry with Arnold because he cast aspersions on her fiancĂ©, and Kenneth stands to inherit rather a large amount of money…

Antonia and Kenneth are bohemian in style, and there’s a great deal of silly banter and joking when asked questions by the police. This leads to a light-hearted investigation where it’s very difficult to know what to believe, and what they have invented. Naturally enough, everyone seems to prevaricate somewhat when asked direct questions, and suspicion falls on more than one person.

The story become less pleasant towards the end, when another unpleasant crime is committed. At this point I began to guess who the perpetrator was, and watched out for clues. Georgette Heyer doesn’t lay false trails and red herrings as expertly as Agatha Christie; on the other hand, her characterisation skills are vastly superior, and her dialogue is a lot more amusing.

All in all, I enjoyed re-reading it, and was pleased to be correct in my assumption. While the crimes themselves are, obviously, unpleasant there's no gore; everything happens in the background, and descriptions are kept to the minimum. Nothing to keep anyone awake at night - I'm not a fan of modern thrillers at all.

Recommended to fans of this kind of light crime fiction.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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