By Catherine Aird
I haven't read a lot of Catherine Aird's books but I've been impressed with those titles I've taken for a spin so far. I actually read Amendment of Life some time back, before starting this site, but I thought I'd give it another go, something I rarely do regardless of who the author is.
I'll say at the outset that while I liked this one I didn't think it quite measured up to some of the other Aird books I've read, especially The Stately Home Murder, which is at the top of my heap thus far. Like all of Aird's books (with perhaps one exception?) this one focuses on Inspector C.D. Sloan, who solves crimes with the help of - or perhaps in spite of - his dimwitted sidekick, Constable Crosby, and his clueless boss.
This time around Sloan is called to Aumerle Court, another one of those grand estates that turn up in so much British mystery fiction. The nifty twist this time around is that the estate boasts a hedge maze (think The Shining) of the sort that people pay to wander into and get lost.
Well, as the discerning mystery fiction fan could easily deduce, this would be a pretty blitheringly obvious place for a stiff to turn up and what do you know? Of course, it's only a matter of time before Sloan and Crosby run the culprit to the ground and it's here where I felt that Aird faltered perhaps just a bit.
I'm not all that fanatical about the need for fair play in this type of mystery novel and I didn't think Aird really did play completely fair, mind you. But what I had the most problem with was that the solution ultimately seemed just a bit too farfetched to swallow. There were also a few too suspects to really make things sporting for the reader.
So I probably wouldn't recommend this as the first Aird book someone would want to read but even Aird on an off day is worlds ahead of a lot of other writers.