There were more than a thousand witnesses to the murder. The victim was on stage, at a big English industrial show. She was in a room in a high tower on the stage, where she was supposed to come out on a balcony and make a speech. Instead, when the lights came up for her speech, what the enormous audience saw was the victim's body, apparently pushed over the side of the balcony, falling to the stage - and she had been strangled within moments of her fall. Yet it was impossible that anyone could have gotten to her in that room - or gotten away afterwards.
Like it so far? That's the central problem in Death of Jezebel, a 1948 mystery by Christianna Brand. It's the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
The victim is a woman named Isabel Drew, who has managed to make herself actively disliked and loathed by most of her acquaintances. Many of them refer to her as "Jezebel," a Biblical princess of ill repute. Just as the Biblical Jezebel met her death by being thrown from a high tower, so does this modern day Jezebel.
Christianna Brand puts not one but two sleuths to work on the case. Her primary series detective, Inspector Cockrill, finds himself here working with Inspector Charlesworth, a London detective who appears on his own in two other novels by Brand. It is inspector Cockrill - Cockie - who will ultimately provide the solution to the case, but only after more murder and attempted murder.
The whole story is told with Brand's usual wit. And as for the impossible murder, you'll be relieved to know that Cockie and Charlesworth manage to come up with not one but several ways in which it could have been carried out. And it's worth noting that Cockie is a very human detective - one who makes his share of serious mistakes...
"Death of Jezebel" is an excellent mystery, a sometimes bloody tale about believable characters, characters for whom you will find yourself caring. And, yes, that includes the murderer. It is not currently in print in hardcover or paper, but it is available in electronic editions. I do recommend it highly.