It has occurred to me more than once that, had I been selling insurance during England's Golden Age of Detective Fiction, I probably would have been most reluctant to insure the lives of those sometimes-tyrannical and patriarchal gentlemen accustomed to riding over the wishes of the increasingly unhappy relatives and business partners who live at the family's country house. The thought arises from reading another of Georgette Heyer's excellent Golden Age mysteries, They Found Him Dead, first published in 1937. It is the book being reviewed today on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the complete review by clicking here.
They Found Him Dead presents us with just such a family patriarch. Silas Kane is not really hated by his relatives, but he IS standing in the way of a business deal which several family members would like to see made. Kane is surrounded by his relatives as he celebrates his sixtieth birthday. That evening, he goes out for a walk on a path by a cliff - quite a foggy path, really - with entirely predictable results. It certainly seems that Silas Kane must have become confused in the fog, slipped, and fell to his death.
But then another person dies - this time shot to death in the house, almost (but not quite) in front of witnesses. And a third person finds himself the target of increasingly dangerous attacks.
Into this situation, Heyer brings her detectives, Superintendent Hannasyde and his assistant, Sergeant Hemingway. And the more they investigate this case, the more puzzled they become, for the pieces of the case don't really seem to fit together. These two professionals are a refreshing change from the all-too-often encountered and not very bright police officers found in too many mysteries. Hannasyde and Hemingway are pretty clear-headed; what's more they have senses of humor and aren't afraid to use them - or even to press some would-be amateur sleuths into service.
Georgette Heyer, of course, is best known for her Regency romance novels, but she also wrote a dozen entertaining mysteries. I think They Found Him Dead is one of the best.
As Hannasyde and Hemingway are thoroughly professional, I am submitting this as another entry in the My Reader's Block blog Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge, filling the space on my golden bingo card calling for one book with a professional detective.