Gordon-Smith, Dolores - 'Mad About the Boy?'
MAD ABOUT THE BOY? is the second book to feature 1920s crime writer Jack Haldean who made his first appearance in A FETE WORSE THAN DEATH.
Jack has been invited to the country house residence of his cousin Isabelle whose parents are celebrating their silver wedding anniversary in grand style with illustrious house-guests and fireworks. However it's not long before things go pear-shaped with the apparent suicide of one of Jack's friends, Tim Preston, who ran with an expensive crowd including fellow guest, racing driver Malcolm Smith-Fennimore and was employed as a secretary to the fireworks provider and munitions dealer Lord Lyvenden.
It's very rare in crime fiction that a suicide is actually a suicide and Jack is soon on the case, calling it murder, helped by an observation from his shell-shocked friend Arthur, a young man with a tendresse for Isabelle. Unfortunately he has strong competition in the dashing Malcolm.
Matters become further complicated with a second death, a disappearance and the involvement of Russians. Jack and his friend Superintendent Ashley have their work cut out to get to the truth of the matter.
I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but MAD ABOUT THE BOY? has an absolutely stunning jacket (by Ken Leeder). Thankfully, I enjoyed the inside of the book as well. The 1920s atmosphere seems effortlessly conjured up and the repercussions of the Great War are strongly presented. Jack Haldean is a decent chap and I'd like to know a bit more about those detective stories he writes. The plot is nicely convoluted and there's a homage to the 'locked room' mystery sub-genre. Though this is set mainly in a country house, it's not one of those typical country house mysteries, where the protagonists are trapped by snow - the protagonists move about the countryside and up to 'Town' as required. This was an absorbing period mystery and though I haven't read A FETE WORSE THAN DEATH yet I do hope to remedy the situation before the next book comes out.
Karen Meek, England
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