Sunday, March 20, 2016
Passing Strange / Catherine Aird
This is the third Catherine Aird mystery I've read. It's been a while since I read the other two. I don't have any real memories of them, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy them. Although this is a modern mystery, written in 1980, it has that Golden Age rural mystery aura.
During the annual Flower Show on the Priory estate in the village of Almstone, Joyce Cooper, the village nurse disappears. She had been posing as a fortune teller in one of the tents at the show, but now she's gone. As they strike the tents at the end of the day, her body is found under a tarp. She's been strangled.
D.C. Sloan is sent to investigate. Everyone liked Miss Cooper. She'd been the village nurse for twenty years or so. She knew things about people, but did she know any secrets worth killing her to keep her quiet? Maybe she did.
The owner of the Priory estate died recently and there is a problem with the inheritance. The heir to the estate was killed in South America, where he'd lived most of his life with his daughter. The daughter, Richenda Mellows, has returned to Great Britain and taken a job as a file clerk. She, apparently, didn't know that she was being sought as the heiress. Now someone has raised the question of whether she is who she is supposed to be.
As it turns out, the village nurse was present at her birth. She would know if Miss Mellows was the true heiress. So who would want that information suppressed? D. C. Sloan will find out.
It takes a while for this book to get off the ground. There's a lot of debate between the rural locals about the results of a tomato contest. Something is not right when the obvious winner wins nothing and first place goes to a completely awful specimen. This, however, does have something important to do with the murder, as we find out at the denouement.