First of the Inspector Hemingway series of mysteries. Another of Heyer’s tales of murder amongst the wealthy in 1930s England, this one is seen primarily through the eyes of Mary, the younger cousin and ward of Wally Carter, a man who has married an extremely wealthy and somewhat vulgar widow. Ermyntrude was an actress before she married her first husband, and is inclined to histrionics at home, but is also a kind and generous woman who has offered Mary a permanent home and a position as her secretary. Mary is genuinely fond of “Auntie Erm”, and thus has little patience with Wally’s domestic misdemeanours, which include spending Erm’s money on gambling, drinking, dodgy business deals, and as it turns out, another woman.
There’s a large cast of characters, and a good third of the book is taken up with introducing them to the reader before Wally is shot dead in broad daylight in front of witnesses — but without anyone seeing the shooter. As usual, the characters are stock stereotypes who are brought to vivid and entertaining life by Heyer’s careful characterisation and witty dialogue, and there’s a thoroughly enjoyable story to be had out of watching the characters interacting even before we get down to the murder mystery itself. There are plenty of good suspects, and plenty of red herrings, and mixed in amongst them enough genuine clues to play fair to those who want to play the game. Great fun.