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May 21, 2009

Review: "The Unfinished Clue" by Georgette Heyer

"The Unfinished Clue"
By: Georgette Heyer
Product ISBN: 9781402217968
Price: $12.99
Publication Date: March 2009 by Sourcebooks
The Burton Review Rating: 3.5 stars

"A houseful of people he loathes is not Sir Arthur's worst problem…
It should have been a lovely English country-house weekend. But the unfortunate guest-list is enough to exasperate a saint, and the host, Sir Arthur Billington-Smith, is an abusive wretch hated by everyone from his disinherited son to his wife's stoic would-be lover. When Sir Arthur is found stabbed to death, no one is particularly grieved—and no one has an alibi. The unhappy guests find themselves under the scrutiny of Scotland Yard's cool-headed Inspector Harding, who has solved tough cases before—but this time, the talented young inspector discovers much more than he's bargained for."

This is a charming mystery who-dun-it reminiscent of Agatha Christie. We meet a host of characters at a weekend party, setting up the scene for when the crotchety but quite rich Sir Arthur is found stabbed to death. As I was introduced to the characters I found myself smiling, their nuances were quite humorous. Heyer has a way with the dialogue between the characters that evoke a sense of watching an old movie in your head.

The suspects are many: There is the emotionally abused wife, the son who would never please his dad, the dapper but gambling nephew always needing money, the couple who are visiting but the wife has designs on the rich man's money, the shallow cabaret dancer.. oh and there are a few quaint romances within..
As the mystery unfolds we get a sense of the dysfunctional family attributes of the deceased's family, and even neighbors as well that we have to figure into the equation of suspects.

Although not entirely a pageturner, the story itself was a pleasure to read, entertaining, and the mystery was interesting as well as the resolution. It was the strong cast of characters that made this a worthwhile and classy mystery read. Given its first issue date of 1934, it was written quite well and seemed modern, and I have no problems recommending this to anyone who enjoys a mystery or the Agatha Christie style crime novels.

There is an excerpt from about the middle of the book here at Georgette

Georgette Heyer, born August 16, 1902 at Wimbledon, London; died July 4, 1974 in London of lung cancer. Her first published work was when she was 19 and she continued to write to help support her family, writing more than 50 books. She is known as the forerunner of the Regency Romance era. More information on her biography and titles can be found at The Historical Novel Society.

The image below is another cover from one of the past issues of the crime novel, which actually depicts it quite well (1937 by E. P. Dutton & Co.):