Richard Hull’s The Murder of My Aunt was one of my favourite books read in 2018; I loved the humour, the narrative voice and the clever plot twists and couldn’t wait to read more of the author’s classic crime novels. The one I chose next was And Death Came Too, which has recently been reissued by Agora Books.
First published in 1939, the novel gets off to a very intriguing start, introducing us to four friends who are attending a series of charity balls at Trevenant Hall when they receive an invitation from a neighbour, Arthur Yeldham, who has recently moved into nearby Y Bryn House. The four – Martin Hands and his sister Patricia; Patricia’s fiancé Gerald Lansley; and a friend, Barbara Carmichael – don’t really want to go, but reluctantly accept and set off together for Y Bryn.
On their arrival, they are surprised to find that there is no sign of their host. Instead, there are two strangers sitting at the table: a man playing a game of solitaire who says his name is Mr Salter, and a mysterious woman whose name nobody knows. As you can imagine, the conversation is extremely awkward, especially when the unknown woman suddenly stands up and leaves with no explanation. Next, a police constable enters the room and helps himself to a drink before announcing that there has been a murder: Arthur Yeldham has been found dead in his study but no weapon has been found and the time of death is unclear. With at least six suspects to choose from – and a range of clues which could point the way to the truth or be complete red herrings – it’s not going to be an easy mystery to solve.
At this point I was anticipating another unusual and original novel like The Murder of My Aunt, but apart from the fascinating opening scenes this was a much more conventional detective story. I still enjoyed following the investigations and sorting through the clues, but in the second half of the novel it became quite obvious who the murderer was and I wasn’t at all surprised when the truth was revealed. The ending was very abrupt as well; the story just seemed to end in the middle of a conversation!
The main characters in the novel – the four friends and the two strangers they encounter at Yeldham’s house – have interesting backgrounds and motives, although none of the six are very likeable. We don’t see any of them getting very involved in amateur investigations – all of that is left to the police, and one element of the book which I did find slightly unusual is that we meet so many different policemen! There are several of them, some local and some from Scotland Yard, of different positions and ranks, all working on separate aspects of the crime. The competition and rivalry between them added another layer of interest to the novel, although on the other hand I think I prefer having just one or two detectives to follow and get to know.
This is a perfectly good, solid murder mystery novel, but I was slightly disappointed with it because, based on my previous experience of Richard Hull, I had hoped for something more imaginative. I will probably still try one or two more of his books. I like the sound of The Ghost It Was and Keep It Quiet, also from Agora Books. Has anyone read either of those – or any other Richard Hull novels?
I received a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.