The apparent suicide of a Shakespearean scholar, Lewis Packford, came as something of a surprise to those who had known him. That would certainly include Sir John Appleby, an Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard. He had visited Packford, an old acquaintance if not exactly a close friend, not too long before the unhappy event, dropping by the Italian villa where Packford had been staying. He found Packford in what seemed at the time a most peculiar mood. Still, his suicide, back at home in England, came as a shock. And surely it was suicide - there was even a suicide note by the body, with the ink still freshly wet. The note was a quotation from Shakespeare – it read, simply, “Farewell, a long farewell.”
The coroner and the police – who did a fairly thorough investigation, by the way – appeared to have no doubt that it must have been suicide. Certainly murder seemed impossible. But Packford's solicitor was convinced that it was murder. So were some of the Shakespearean scholars who had been staying at Packford's house. So were Packford's two wives, both of whom were also present at Packford's house when he died. Yes, I said "two wives." And there were tantalizing hints that Packford had been on the trail of a truly sensational literary find, one that could have been worth a fortune. The situation appeared, to Appleby at least, to require a little investigation. The results of that investigation may be found in The Long Farewell, by Michael Innes. It's the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
The Long Farewell, first published in 1958, is clearly post-Golden Age, but still has the elements of a fine period mystery, including a fairly-clued plot and some very funny writing. Michael Innes certainly has a reputation as an erudite, witty and wholly literate writer, often given to quoting Shakespeare and other classic authors, but there’s not as much of this in The Long Farewell as you might expect, especially considering the Shakespearean suicide note. It is something of a puzzle, with Appleby working to uncover various pieces and fit them together to make sense out of them. And the clues, for the most part, are thoughtfully left out in plain view of the reader – if the reader isn’t too easily distracted by those attractive red herrings floating by. I enjoyed The Long Farewell, and I highly recommend it to you.