Suicide Excepted by Cyril Hare
Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)
Hare takes chances in this 1939 outing, his third novel and the first to feature his series character Inspector Mallet. Hare ensures that we patient readers dislike two of the protagonists from the get-go. Coincidences abound, even for a whodunit. And Inspector Mallet neither plays a major role in the story nor is he accompanied by his usual foil, the exasperated Francis Pettigrew. Mallet solo worked fine in Tenant for Death, but less so in this outing.
Leonard Dickinson’s death was the result of an overdose of a prescribed medication. Inspector Mallet had talked to the victim and had been mildly distressed by Dickinson’s gloomy pessimism, which the jury thought was sufficient to conclude was suicidal ideation and that Dickinson had later done away with himself. The problem is that insurance company will not pay up in the case of a suicide. The victim’s son, daughter and her fiancé team up to prove it was murder committed by one of the other hotel guests.
The amateur trio bungles their investigation. Their solicitor you-peoples them with “You people took it upon yourselves to prove that the late Mr. Dickinson was murdered. I dare say he was … (but) you have gone about it in a way that I can only describe as imbecile.” However, they meet a variety of curious characters in interesting settings. Hare’s prose is not flashy but it’s always clear. I get a good feeling when a writer plainly assumes that the reader has a vocabulary of more than 500 words. The dramatic twist is a fascinating twist indeed.
This is very much a mystery from between the wars in that we have eccentric characters, little violence, and a countryish setting. So readers of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers will probably enjoy it. The solid prose, if self-consciously literary, calls to mind Rex Stout.