Thursday, 9 March 2000

Michael Innes: Carson's Conspiracy (1984)

Edition: Gollancz, 1984
Review number: 447

Carl Carson has made a fortune in dodgy dealing, and has bought himself a country house and gentility. The main disappointment in his life is the growing eccentricity of his life, who is reaching the point where her strangeness is becoming obvious even to relatively mild acquaintances. She is obsessed with the career of her son Robin, working in the States after graduating from Harvard - yet the Carsons have no children.

Things are not rosy on the business front, either; it looks as though Carson's ventures will soon fail or be exposed. He cannot get together the money to flee the country, which seems to be the only way out, without drawing unwelcome attention from the others involved in his schemes even if not the police. He is suddenly inspired with a plan which takes advantage of his wife's strangeness: he arranges a visit from his imaginary son, only to stage a kidnapping to enable him to have an excuse to gather his resources in cash.

The one thing that he hasn't reckoned with is, of course, the interest of his neighbour, retired policeman Sir John Appleby. There are still surprises in store right up to the end of this cleverly plotted story. It is not, perhaps, one of Innes' best, and is farfetched in places, but still well worth reading.

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