Thursday, 12 March 1998

Georgette Heyer: Behold, Here's Poison (1936)

Edition: HarperCollins
Review number: 9

This seems to be one of the best of Georgette Heyer's dozen or so detective novels (I haven't read quite all of them, so I can't be definite about it.) It has a much better plot than most of her novels in this genre, though it still doesn't live up to the motto they still insist on putting on her detective novels even today ("Queen of Mystery and Suspense" - a title that could be far better applied to any of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers among Heyer's contemporaries).

The Matthews family are an unpleasant group of people with whom it is difficult to feel any sympathy. The murder victim, Gregory Matthews, is an overbearing old man prone to blackmail, who lives with his miserly sister, avaricious sister-in-law and her two children. One of these, Stella, is the only remotely likeable member of the family, along her cousin Randall. Randall is more intelligent than the lot of them put together, and he alternately helps and hinders the police before a solution is arrived at. The puzzle is fairly clever, and the solution unexpected.

The title, by the way, is from Shakespeare's Pericles, and, in the context it originally comes from, it doesn't seem very apt.

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