RogerBW's Blog

A Legal Fiction, Elizabeth Ferrars 13 March 2023

1964 murder mystery. Two years ago, Colin Lockie was ambushed on the road, and a worthless painting stolen. Now his childhood friend has spotted it for sale in an auction-house at the other end of the country. vt The Decayed Gentlewoman.

Well, even in 1964 Ferrars still likes her nervy women, and Ginny the childhood friend always "had an imagination", and makes things up seemingly for the sake of it – though at least here she has something like a reason for it, because of stress at home.

Like Enough to Kill a Horse this story hinges on a specific point – though this time it's a legal one, the doctrine of market overt, and what may be a cunning way to launder stolen goods. Or, of course, just coincidence. There's no murder until three-quarters of the way through, which gives the principals something of a lack of urgency but also lets other characters get a look in.

As a mystery, it's clear quite early who the prime movers are, though there's some doubt about exactly who is caught up in the conspiracy. This is really much more a character study, not just of Colin and Ginny but of the various awkward and spiky people who form part of their lives.

Slight, but certainly enjoyable.

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