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Mystery Monday – The Wind Blows Death

The Wind Blows Death by Cyril Hare

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Amateur sleuth Frances Pettigrew appeared in five of Cyril Hare’s mysteries, sometimes with Inspector Mallet, sometimes by himself.  Pettigrew is a remarkable character in that he explicitly rejects seeing murder as a parlor game. Such is his desire “to leave the business of detection to my betters” that he never offers help to the investigation, but always waits to be asked. Or dragged in.

In this 1949 mystery, Pettigrew is pressured by Chief Constable MacWillams to assist without the knowledge of Inspector Trimble of the City Division of the Markshire County Constabulary. A greenhorn, Trimble is in over his head as he runs the investigation of the strangulation of a visiting professional violinist who was hired to play a solo with the Markhampton County Orchestral Society. Since Pettigrew’s wife plays the fiddle with other enthusiastic amateurs, Pettigrew, who practices at the bar and has an unfounded reputation as a practical man, has been deputized to be the society’s treasurer.

Cyril Hare was only 57 when he died, so his output is small – only nine novels and a handful of short stories – compared to the enormous production of that other mystery writer-lawyer, Erle Stanley Gardner. Hare’s mysteries are skillfully written, with sophisticated yet amiable humor, and often using a twist in the law in his reveals.

This novel, whose UK title is When the Wind Blows, was considered by critics Barzun and Taylor to be “a masterpiece by any standards” on their classics of crime list.

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