RogerBW's Blog

Murder in a Good Cause, Medora Sale 11 November 2019

1990 mystery, third in the John Sanders/Harriet Jeffries series. A series of high-value burglaries turns lethal; and an ageing actress is murdered at her soirée, having mentioned that she might be planning to change her will. Sanders investigates; Jeffries was a guest at the party…

As a mystery, it's fairly straightforward: I suspect that very few readers will be surprised by the identity of the murderer. But the story that Sale hangs on this admittedly fairly threadbare plot is an effective one of people; there's consideration of evidence, particularly in terms of who had access to drop the poison into the fatal teacup, but much more important is consideration of who has both the motive and the personality to commit the crime.

The victim's daughters, and her nephew, are all spoiled rich kids, but they've been spoiled in accordance with their personalities, and they come off as quite distinct from each other – and at the same time one can see how Sanders the outsider might at first be inclined to tar them all with the same brush.

Sanders also resumes his affair with Jeffries, and while these are both spiky people who can at times be quite unpleasant I found very effective the portrayal of their learning to make useful compromises in the lives that they've been living independently in order to be able to be together.

One branch of investigation is pruned prematurely by a confession and flight, and I felt that it could have been more interesting if followed further, but all in all I enjoyed this rather a lot, even if it does feel more like a 1970s book than a 1990s one.

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Previous in series: Murder in Focus | Series: John Sanders-Harriet Jeffries | Next in series: Sleep of the Innocent

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