17) Georgette Heyer – Detection Unlimited
Local solicitor Sampson Warrenby has not made himself well-liked in the village, not least because of his habit of trying to have a finger in every pie there is; even, or perhaps especially, if it means pushing others out of the way. The final inconvenience he causes is to be shot dead at a time and place that leaves ten people in the village firmly in the running for chief suspect. And as Chief Inspector Hemingway soon discovers, Warrenby made a habit of collecting embarrassing information that people would rather didn’t get out, so the absence of an obvious motive is not absence of motive.
There’s an entertaining mystery to be solved, but the real point of the book is the character studies. Various stereotypes of the English village are brought to vivid life here, from the country squire to the breeder of Pekes with ridiculous names to the village doctor out of his depth and not knowing it. Heyer takes the stereotypes and makes them people, people you can sympathise with even as you laugh at their foibles. And there’s plenty of occasion for laughter, as this is often a very funny book.