Sherriff, R C - 'The Wells of St Mary's'
Colonel Evelyn Joyce, the narrator of this story was a retired soldier who lived in a somewhat run-down country house and he had invited his old friend Lord Colindale, the millionaire newspaper owner and 'strong man' of British politics down for a weekend. For at least a year Colindale had been forced out of public life by crippling rheumatism which neither the various Harley Street specialists nor the watering-spas of Europe had been able to alleviate. Colonel Joyce was very surprised to see that Colindale was reduced to getting around almost entirely on crutches, so debilitated was he by the illness he suffered. He was accompanying Joyce in a slow walk around the property the following day, when they came across the Wells of St Mary's which the Colonel had forgotten that he owned. An old retainer Henry Hodder, looked after them and at his insistence Colindale drank a glass of the Well water. The next day Colindale said that he was feeling better and he returned to London taking with him several bottles of the water of the Wells of St Mary's for future use. Several weeks passed and then it was prominently announced in the newspapers that Colindale had been cured by the waters and following this Colonel Joyce decided to gift the well to the local town. Immediately the publicity generated a huge interest from many people both in the UK and abroad who hoped to visit the Wells of St Mary's and obtain cures for their ailments.
The Mayor of St Mary's, Jim Blundell, who also owned the largest pub and inn in the town could see that this presented an ideal opportunity to put St Mary's on the map and make a lot of money. A limited public company was formed with the Colonel as chairman and other prominent citizens as directors and all of the town used all their savings to buy shares in it and the money was used to build up the facilities of the town, including a casino, in anticipation of the big rush of tourists and other visitors that there would be for the curative water. However, at one of the board meetings discussing the building of the various facilities, appeared the old retainer Henry Hodder who claimed that the original well had dried up and that the water in it now was coming from an adjacent pond! He demanded money from the profits of the casino to keep silent, or else. Later, the next day his badly bludgeoned body was discovered! Who had killed him could it be be one of the notable local worthies on the board of directors?
The local police get nowhere with their investigation but after the antagonistic headlines of a local newspaper, Scotland Yard are invited to investigate and a detective inspector comes to the town to question all whom he considers potential witnesses and the book leads on to the exciting climax.
This is the fourth title that I've read that has been published by Bello and it was a really well-plotted and exciting read and I read a lot of mystery books but the really high class ones are very few and far between. This is one is those rarities. It was a relatively light read but it emphasised the well thought out plot rather than sensationalism and it was a much appreciated entertainment at the end of a hard day. It was originally published by Heinemann in 1962 but republished in e-book in 2012 by Bello, an imprint of Pan Macmillan. Well Recommended.
Terry Halligan, England
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.
last updated 24/03/2013 11:12