On the surface, it seemed like a fairly ordinary crime - a man murdered in his study by someone using the proverbial "blunt instrument." But there were a number of peculiarities which worried Superintendent Hannasyde and his assistant, Sergeant Hemingway. For example, the fact that the murder weapon - whatever it was - seems to have disappeared...
It happens in a Georgette Heyer mystery titled, appropriately enough, A Blunt Instrument, a Golden Age mystery first published in 1938, and one which stands up quite well despite having been written 75 years ago. It's the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to that entire review by clicking here.
The murder of Ernest Fletcher appeared to police to have been nearly impossible to have happened at all. The deeper Hannasyde and Hemingway probe into the case, the clearer it becomes that the murder must have taken place in a very limited period of time…and that the murderer was very fortunate not to have been seen and recognized. In fact, the local policeman on the beat, Constable Glass, apparently did see someone leaving the victim's house. Was it the murderer? Difficult to say. And that missing blunt instrument is a major sticking point for the police – the absence of the weapon, as Sergeant Hemingway points out repeatedly, wants a bit of explanation. The man seen leaving the house by the constable did not seem to be carrying anything like a heavy walking stick – or anything else that might have been used as a weapon.
Heyer has a great deal of fun with this situation - it's one of those lovely cases where virtually everyone in the book turns out to have had a good reason to murder the victim. But the very limited time in which the murder could have been committed - and the problem of that missing weapon - make it a very tricky case. Tricky indeed!
Georgette Heyer is best remembered, of course, for her Regency romances, but she was also a fine writer of classic, puzzle-oriented mysteries, filled with interesting and enjoyable characters. A Blunt Instrument is a very good example. It's not my favorite among her mysteries - but it's very good.