Beverley Nichols is known mostly for his gardening books, his books about cats, and his autobiographies. I've read quite a few in each category and enjoyed them all. But it was news to me when my friend Katrina at Pining for the West (http://piningforthewest.co.uk) mentioned that he'd written several mysteries, too. There appear to be five of them and Murder by Request is the last of them, published in 1960.
His sleuth is Mr. Horatio Green, retired, slightly plump, almost sixty years old, an avid gardener, and with a renowned 'keen olfactory sense'. The latter helps him solve mysteries. He tells one of the characters in this book that he's a retired psychiatrist, but I'm not sure if he really is or if he's just telling her that. When he's thinking hard, he blinks rapidly. He lives with his niece Charlotte in a cottage in Surrey, England. Charlotte tries to protect his health by attempting to keep him away from detective work.
He's approached by Sir Owen Kent, a wealthy financier, who has been receiving notes telling him that he's going to die between December 21st and December 29th. He wants Mr. Green to go to Harmony Hall, the Nature Cure facility he owns and where he always spends Christmas, to investigate, so Charlotte finally relents. She's been trying to get her uncle to go there to lose some weight and improve his health.
The 'nature cure' institution is full of characters, some are patients and some are employees. Sir Owen's sister Maisie, who was recklessly driving the car that crashed and killed his beloved daughter is there. His twin sister, Catharine, and her husband run the clinic. There is the down-to-earth cook, Mrs. Dee, and two masseurs: the Adonis-like Mr. Garth and Mr. Button, devoted to Sir Owen, having been his bat boy during the war. Button will do anything for Sir Owen. There's Sir Owen's secretary and mistress, Louise Delamere, and the flamboyant and annoying journalist and singer, Paul Stole.
As per the letters he's been receiving, Sir Owen is shot to death during a group television viewing he's invited everyone to. The lights go off, bang, bang, and he's dead. Now it's up to Mr. Green and the police to find out what happened, who did it, and why.
Nichols can't restrain himself from throwing in a few comments about cats and plants. A key point in solving the murders involves a list of plants bought from a local nursery.
This was an entertaining book. I liked Mr. Green and his niece and would like to read more of their adventures.