When Georgette Heyer started writing mysteries in 1932, she wrote one a year. Then she took a break of almost ten years from the genre and wrote only two more after that, including Detection Unlimited, her last mystery in 1953. Her mysteries were written in collaboration with her husband and were far less popular than her romances. Though they are of a much lower quality than Agatha Christie’s mysteries, you are always guaranteed an amusing cast of characters and quite a bit of unpleasantness!
Detection Unlimited features Chief Inspector Hemingway and is so named because, when the generally loathed solicitor Sampson Warrenby is found dead in his garden, almost every resident of the small village of Thornden has their own theory about the case. Was it the niece who lived with him and was constantly being bullied and abused? Was it the squire who unexpectedly started championing Warrenby and inviting him to social events? Could it have been the anti-social young married couple who frequently acted nervous and never had family to visit? Or could it have been one of the other residents of the town who owned a possible murder weapon or had even the slightest motive?
As in Heyer’s other mysteries, we know very little about her detective’s private life but, when we see him in action, we know with certainty that Hemingway always has a plan and is more than competent in his chosen profession. As for the characters in the village of Thornden, they are surprisingly tame for once. Usually the characters are so incredibly loathsome that you hope that they can somehow all be guilty and sent away for life. But in this story, I was actually rooting for the innocence of a few of the key players. Another staple of Heyer mysteries is a small romance and there’s one of those in here too but it’s much sweeter than usual and completely expected (unlike in some stories where it seems to come out of nowhere). The couple both have ironclad alibis as well so there is none of that shameful covering for one another to taint their characters.
I don’t know why this was Heyer’s last mystery (she kept writing for 20 more years) but, as none of them was very unique and they didn’t sell well, I can only imagine that she tired of writing them. But they are all small gems that are showcases of Heyer’s writing talent and ability to craft truly interesting characters.
~Kristen M at We Be Reading
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