RogerBW's Blog

Murder Fantastical, Patricia Moyes 12 July 2022

1967 mystery, seventh in the series about Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett. The self-made man who wants to be County is found shot; nobody much regrets it, but Tibbett still gets called in to the house full of daft and self-interested people…

It's all a bit Police at the Funeral, in fact. Here are all these people who are horrible not because they wish anyone ill, but because they are utterly self-absorbed, and if they're confused by a conversation since they must be right it must be the other person who is wrong. (For example if someone is surprised by one of them turning up unannounced in Wellingtons and a swimming costume, saying "I am the Bishop of Bugolaland and I want half a pound of margarine", well, what a strange fellow, he must be mad.)

We have the retired missionary Bishop, the dotty spiritualist aunt, the physicist who treats everyone like an easily-understood experimental animal and his wife who's playing at being a Free Spirit. And the Girl of course, who appears at first to be relatively normal…

So the social climber is shot on the drive outside the big house, but his behaviour doesn't seem to make any sense. Tibbett works out fairly quickly what must have happened, but then someone else dies, and that's rather less explicable. So he stays on even though the local police are quite happy with the simple answer. Meanwhile there are discoveries to be made at the social climber's bookmaking firm…

"That's just the point, Chief Inspector. I'm not a fool, I realize the position I am in, that the firm is in. That's why I telephoned you rather than the police."

Henry hardly knew whether or not to be flattered at this distinction.

It's well-done as a study of post-war decay, but one does end up with some slight sympathy for these people even while knowing that they would never think of reciprocating.

Tibbett's wife Emmy turns up too, since her old school friend married the local doctor, and while her strand isn't especially important she does get things to do, contrasting her investigative style with her husband's. The Tibbetts are the real prize of this series, I think, really fine character studies who tie the whole thing together. I continue to be surprised that Moyes is not better-known in mystery circles.

Sir John, as he frequently remarked, hoped that he was not a snob—but it was a vain hope.

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See also:
Police at the Funeral, Margery Allingham

Previous in series: Johnny Under Ground | Series: Henry Tibbett | Next in series: Death and the Dutch Uncle

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