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Posts Tagged ‘remote island’

HELL BAY by Will Thomas: Book Review

Someone is killing the people at a dinner party at Godolphin House, a manor located on a remote family-owned island off the southwest corner of England.  Deaths by rifle shot, knife, explosion–but why?

The owner of the island, Lord Hargrave, arrives at the office of Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewelyn, private enquiry agents in London.  Hargrave and his wife will be hosting this party with a dual purpose; he wants to come to a diplomatic agreement with Henri Gascoigne, the French ambassador, concerning colonies in Africa; she is hoping to find suitable matches for their older son and their only daughter.  The nobleman wants the agents to guard Gascoigne, and Cyrus, the senior member of the firm, reluctantly agrees.

Everything appears to be going smoothly at the house until the first murder.  Lord Hargrave himself is the victim, shot after dinner while surrounded by several of his guests in the garden.  Of course everyone is horrified, and Ambassador Gascoigne insists he needs his own bodyguard, who has remained on board the boat that brought the ambassador to the island, to protect him.  When Cyrus and Thomas rush to the harbor to bring Delacroix back to the house, however, the boat is gone and his body is floating in the water.

Thus begins a terrifying ordeal for those left in Godolphin House.  In addition to the two investigators and the ambassador, Lady Hargrave and her three children, Colonel Fraser and his wife, Doctor Anstruther and his two daughters, a businessman and his valet from South America, and Philippa Ashleigh, Cyrus Barker’s particular friend, are present.  And, naturally, the servants—fifteen of them.

In fact, two killings occur even before Cyrus and Thomas arrive at the island.  The head of a boarding school on the mainland is shot as he calls out the window to one of his students; the woman who ran a foster home is found in her yard with a broken neck.  These two deaths, seemingly unrelated to each other or to the island, are actually just the beginning of the murderous spree that will follow.

Hell Bay is narrated by young Thomas, Cyrus’ assistant.  He is in awe of his employer and cannot shake the feeling that he will never have the insights that the latter has.  He’s anxious to appear more sophisticated and worldly than he actually is and desperate to absorb knowledge from his mentor.  But Cyrus refuses to coddle him, saying “If I spoon-feed you the answers, however shall you learn?”

Hell Bay is the eighth mystery in Will Thomas’ Barker and Llewelyn series, set at the end of the nineteenth century.  Each one of his novels sets a perfect scene that will draw you into a period well worth visiting.

You can read more about Will Thomas at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie: Book Review

Not to keep you in suspense, I’m writing my first post in this section about what I consider the most golden of all Golden Oldies–And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

I have read this mystery at least five times over the years, each time with the thought that this time I’d see the red herrings and clues that I hadn’t noticed the previous times I had read the book.  After all, I knew after the first reading what had happened and why.

But that didn’t happen.  With each reading I was more impressed by the author’s ability to completely mystify me, to lead me down paths that definitely led me away from the murderer, all the while being convinced that I knew exactly what she was doing. In my mind there’s no one like Dame Agatha  (she was named a Commander of the British Empire in 1956).

For those not familiar with the novel’s plot, ten people, a very disparate group, are invited to a deserted island off the coat of Devon. There seems to be nothing in common among them–there’s a judge, a rich young racing car enthusiast, a married couple who are the servants on the island, a retired military man, a governess, a former policeman, an elderly woman, a mercenary, and a physician.

Each had received a somewhat cryptic invitation from someone who professed to be an acquaintance, inviting them to spend a few days on the island.  But when the group was assembled, it turned out that no one knew exactly who had invited them, and there was no host or hostess there.

All was set for their arrival however, and they anticipated that the next day would bring the owner of the island to the house.  But after dinner, the manservant played a recording that accused each of the guests of being a murderer. They all vehemently denied the accusations with various excuses or reasons for the deaths that were described, and all claimed they were innocent.

The young race car enthusiast admitted that he had run down and killed two pedestrians some time ago, but he said that certainly wasn’t murder, just an accident that was “beastly bad luck.”  He picked up his drink at the bar, swallowed it in a gulp, convulsed, and died in front of the group.

And then the other guests started dying, one by one. At first there was denial, the guests saying that the deaths were natural–suffocation, a weak heart.  But soon there was the realization that someone had decided that these people literally had gotten away with murder and needed to be punished.

And Then There Were None is a masterpiece. Perhaps it’s dated, as a Sherlock Holmes story may be dated, but that doesn’t take away one bit from its perfection.  If you haven’t read it, put it on your reading list.  If you have, you know why it’s heading the G. O. list.