RogerBW's Blog

Enough to Kill a Horse, Elizabeth Ferrars 27 January 2023

1955 murder mystery. Fanny Lynam throws a party to celebrate the engagement of her younger half-brother, and makes her special lobster patties. That will turn out to have been a mistake.

I was impressed with Ferrars' maturity in The March Hare Murders (1949), but here alas we're mostly back to the recipe as in her pre-war books: every woman in the place is shrill and nervy and "hysterical", and the men put up with them for no obvious reason. I suppose there must have been a market for this style, but it's not to my taste.

Quite a bit hinges on a genetic inability to taste the bitterness of a particular substance, and this is very clearly something that Ferrars had recently found out and become fascinated by – alas, to the point that the explanation for its use ends up needing a character to behave impulsively at one moment and with cold planning the next. Someone else manages to act casually friendly to everyone, despite having spent a large part of their life obsessing about revenge.

I quite liked some of the character moments here, particularly the way the local troublemaker is shown as not completely unsympathetic, but I felt that the ultimate reason behind the mystery was a very weak skeleton on which to hang some quite interesting behaviour.

‘No, I'm sure she's a charming, intelligent, nice-natured girl and that we're all going to love her. The only thing is …’


‘Well, damn it, Colin, what does someone as charming, intelligent and so on as all that want with my poor Kit?’

‘Kit's very attractive — you ought to know that by now,’ he said.

‘Yes, but to marry …’

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