RogerBW's Blog

Furnished for Murder, Elizabeth Ferrars 18 January 2018

1957 murder mystery in rural England. The Jeacocks have split off part of their house to make a cottage to let, but not only is their tenant entirely too willing to pay three months' rent in advance in lieu of references, he's mostly interested in the Big House nearby, and its new owner.

Although things get off to a slowish start, we meet most of the cast at an informal party: the Jeacocks, their young friend Kate (who should have inherited the Big House, but didn't, and isn't bitter about it really), who'd been having an affair with Roger the architect only his horrible wife Daphne came back to him, Thea the Vivacious Widow, and of course Richard the Unexpected Heir.

I imagine that in 1957 it was pretty revolutionary to have sympathetic characters touched in any way by divorce; one gets the feeling that Ferrars is aware she's dealing with a shocking subject, and treading carefully round it.

There's a constraint of suspects based on who was told that a particular window allowed people in one room to see in another, which doesn't entirely convince (why couldn't someone in the spied-on room simply notice the window?). But really I enjoyed this more as a period piece, with the last remnants of the pre-war way of doing things running up against the new grim order of the fifties in Britain: there are still some retired ex-servants about, but they're definitely getting on a bit, and everyone feels the need to scrimp and save.

The ending is somewhat abrupt (though it spares everyone the dreariness of a court case), and I'd have liked a little more about what happened to some of the principals afterwards; this may perhaps be the sort of story that inspired Simon Brett to start his habit of adding a page or two of single-paragraph summaries of What People Did Next to the ends of his books.

Ferrars wrote about a book a year for her productive life, and this sometimes feels a little dashed-off; the people are interesting enough, but there's not much depth to them. Not worth seeking out, but I don't regret having read it.

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