Monday, November 12, 2012

The Stately Home Murder, by Catherine Aird

The Stately Home Murder
By Catherine Aird

"Traditional, sir," Sloan reminded him. "You said we could expect the traditional at Ornhum."

Catherine Aird has become one of those somewhat underappreciated authors whom I bang the drum for whenever I can. The other two are James Anderson and C.S. Challinor. I read a few of Aird's books before starting this site and this is the second one I've reviewed here. I've yet to find a dud in that small bunch and I'm sure I'll be reading more of the two dozen novels she's turned out since 1966.

If I have my story straight, all but perhaps one of these novels deals with the exploits of British Inspector C.D. Sloan, who typically works cases in tandem with the somewhat dimwitted Constable Crosby and who is frequently harried by his boss, Superintendent Leeyes. The Stately Home Murder is the fourth of Aird's books and my favorite thus far of the handful I've read.

Though it was published in 1969, some decades after the close of the Golden Age of Detection, The Stately Home Murder is quite a traditional work indeed and wouldn't be out of place in that era. It takes place at Ornhum, an imposing estate that's home to yet another of those bands of batty and/or dysfunctional aristocratic types.

Whose batty and/or dysfunctional bliss is soon disturbed by a murder. I wouldn't dare reveal where the stiff turns up, though the cover of the old paperback edition I read effectively spoiled that one. Sloan and Crosby are brought in to sort things out, with plenty of off-site harrying from Leeyes. More mayhem eventually ensues, which throws something of a wrench in Sloan's brilliant efforts to crack the case up to that point.

Very traditional, indeed, but also quite witty. I don't recall whether the other Aird books I read were as funny as this one and it's hardly a Blotto and Twinks slapstick type of affair, but the author laid it on pretty thick throughout with the dry wit. Which was by no means detrimental to the story. High marks for this one all around.

Here's an interview with Aird from Rue Morgue Press, who have reissued several of her books.

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