Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Shoot a Butler?, by Georgette Heyer


Dawson, the Fountain family butler, is dead. He was sitting in his car, on the side of the road, at night, and someone shot him. But who? What of the exceedingly uncooperative (and rather rude) Miss Brown, who keeps popping up in the strangest places? Could she be the culprit? What about her perpetually drunk brother Mark? Or the creepy Fountain valet with a nasty habit of listening at keyholes? And why? Was it just bandits, or is there a more sinister force at work? The police are stymied. Fortunately, young barrister Frank Amberley is in town to visit his family, and the police quickly enlist his assistance. But Frank isn't entirely sure he wants to help the police just yet. He is convinced that there's more to this mess than meets the eye--that the murder is, in fact, the least interesting part of the mystery. But before long, there's another death, and Frank must get to the bottom of it all before anyone else meets an untimely end.

Another great Georgette Heyer mystery, at yet another country manor, with a fairly highbrow cast of characters. This time, however, the local police force is ill-equipped to handle the situation and yet disinclined to call in Scotland Yard, so we turn to an amateur detective to solve the crime. This detective--Frank Amberley--does not disappoint. He is clever and brusque to the point of being rude; plus he has a lively sense of humor and doesn't hesitate to tell the local constabulary exactly what he thinks of their skills. And, as it turns out, his opinions are not unjustified. Fortunately, one of the local officers is just clever enough to know that he needs Frank's help. And lucky for us, because it wouldn't be much of a story without Frank.

Young Shirley Brown, on the other hand, wishes very much that she'd never met Frank Amberley. Not only did she have the rotten luck to make his acquaintance while she was standing over Dawson's dead body, but he keeps popping up and sticking his nose into her affairs. She suspects he knows more than he's letting on; but then, so does she. Who knows--there may come a day when she is grateful for Frank Amberley's infernal habit of showing up unexpectedly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's par for the course for Heyer, full of bon mots and romance lurking in the shadows. Unlike many of her mysteries, this one actually features a fairly intense action sequence, and a major character ends up in serious danger. The solution is fairly creative, and Frank Amberley's deductions are logically sound. If you enjoy Heyer's other works, or mysteries in the vein of Agatha Christie and the like, then this one's definitely worth checking out.

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