Imagine, if you will, a country estate. A grand house with extensive grounds set on the English coast. A house named Mizmaze, because the main feature of those grounds is a maze.
‘The Maze was at the south-west end of the garden; it covered over a quarter of an acre, and seemed even bigger to those who walked in it. The entrance, cut in the splendid yew hedge, was six feet high and three feet wide; on the top of a topiaried archway stood two topiaried birds with long spreading tails.’
At the centre of the maze a man lay dead. He was the owner of the house, and his murderer had struck him down with one of his own croquet mallets.
This looked very promising.
Augustine Hatley left two daughters. Alethea, his favoured child, was a divorcee and Angela, his less favoured child was a spinster. His former son-in law, Ben, was also present. he was married again, to Angela, an actress significantly older than him, but he still carried a torch for the wife had acquiesed to her father’s wish that she leave him. And his neighbour, the widowed Lady Lanson who maybe had ideas of marrying again had been visiting. Accompanied by Horick, her feckless, aimless son, who was loved by Angela who he loathed and loathed by Alathea who he loved.
A houseful of suspects, and a tangled web of relationships to unravel.
I’m afraid it was all a little lacklustre. The characters were dislikeable and very nearly grotesques. Once I had worked out their personalities and their relationships I had little interest in their exchanges.
I began to wish that I could find someone to care about. Or, alternatively, that Molly Keane had written a murder mystery, she would have given things that extra push towards the dark side …
And then there was a second, very different murder. More investigations, more dialogue. I hoped that this was the spark the book needed, and it very nearly was. But then characters began to crumble, logic was lost, and I began to see little inconsistencies.
I wasn’t sorry when the murderer was unveiled and I could put the book down.
Such a pity, because the set-up was so promising, the characters had possibilities, and I know how good Mary Fitt can be.
I was so impressed with Death and the Pleasant Voices, which came early in her career, but unimpressed by this book, which came much later.
It felt like a first draft. Idea was there, the style was there. I can’t help feeling that with just a little more work, a little more direction, this could have been a triumph.
But, sadly, it wasn’t.
The Crime Fiction Alphabet is hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.
“Each week, beginning Monday 21 May 2012, you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week …”
So next week, G is for … ?