Feted to Die, by Roger Keevil
It is time for the annual fête at Dammett Hall and a few people are gathering together for a pre-opening drink. Present are Sandra lady Lawdown, her daughter Laura Biding, family friend Seymour Cummings, famous author Helen Highwater, local lawyer Robin Allday, clairvoyant Horace Cope and his cousin Albert Ross. When Horace Cope is found murdered in the closed in garden where he was to entertain people with his predictions, those present for the drinks are the only real suspects.
Detective Inspector Andy Constable and Sergeant Dave Copper are called in to investigate the murder and soon discover that although all the suspects initially claim to have liked the clairvoyant, a bit of digging soon exposes a less pleasant truth. Horace Cope was a rather horrible man who took great pleasure in uncovering any secrets those around him might be keeping. Secrets he would hold over those concerned. Secrets that might give him power over the people around him. And all 6 suspects had secrets they would rather not share with the world, secrets that Cope had uncovered and had been hinting about in the recent past. Interviewing the suspects seems to only make the case less clear for the two policemen. With Dammett Worthy being a small community and a hotbed for gossip the two investigators soon pick up hints as to what their suspects are trying to hide. Still it takes some time as well as a second murder before both the motive and the murderer are revealed.
At first glance this is a traditional murder mystery. We have a closed-off crime scene and a limited amount of suspects who each have a motive to want to see the victim dead. However, it is clear from almost the first page that this story should not be taken too seriously. The names of our two investigators, Constable and Copper are the first and most obvious clue that the author is taking a very light and not altogether serious approach to his mystery. There are more indications though, such as the name of the place where the murder is committed, Dammett Hall, and the books our famous author has written under the pseudonym Jake A. Rawlings, books about a magician called Carrie Otter, books with titles such as Carrie Otter and the half-boiled pants.
The author also has his fun with the interviews as conducted by Constable and Copper. None of the interviewees seem to be able to stay on topic when answering questions and all go off on tangents to which there appears to be no logic. In fact, Keevil takes this to such a height that it feels like he’s making fun of the traditional cosy mysteries, although I guess you could also call it an homage.
All these elements succeed in giving the book a light-hearted feel and in making it an easy to read story although they didn’t actually lead to laugh-out-loud moments for me. The mystery itself is reasonably well plotted and the cast of suspects all have good enough motives for having wanted the victim dead to keep the reader guessing. The solution itself though does seem to make fun of the mystery in this book, mysteries in general as well as the things people will do to keep their secrets. Overall I would call this a pleasant cosy mystery, an ideal book to spend a lazy afternoon in the sunshine with.