We're going to take a short break from the Golden Age this week to tell you about a more recent book that remains true to the traditional puzzle mystery. Between 1979 and 1995, Margot Arnold wrote a series of 12 fine mystery novels featuring the combined detective work of anthropologist Penny Spring and archeologist Sir Toby Glendower. "Margot Arnold" was, in fact, the pen name of an author named Petronelle Cook, who, according to her entry in Wikipedia, has solid credentials in both anthropology and archeology.
The sixth book in the series, published in 1982, is Lament for a Lady Laird, and it is typical of this intelligent, often funny and quite suspenseful series. It is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
Set in the rugged and remote Scottish highlands, Lament for a Lady Laird is really a mix of a classic puzzle with a relatively mild (by today's standards, anyway) thriller. It begins with an invitation to Penny Spring from an old school friend, Heather Macdonell to come and visit her - she has inherited, and is now living in, a castle in the highlands. When Penny gets to the castle, she finds Heather has been frightened half out of her mind by a series of odd and terrifying events: someone apparently is stalking through the castle at night; a bagpipe is heard somewhere in the grounds piping an ancient lament; a mysterious and possibly ghostly figure appears (and disappears) nearby wearing the full dress tartan of the Macdonells. There is even talk of an old curse on the Macdonell clan.
There’s plenty of evidence that it could be part of a campaign to terrorize Heather, and it doesn’t take long for things to spiral out of control. When one of Heather's neighbors is murdered, Penny calls for help to her old friend, Sir Toby – and they both will find their hands full as they uncover a very dangerous secret. And the giant whirlpool just off the coast, the Corryvreckan, will prove to be a significant danger. Margot Arnold keeps the events rolling at a pretty good pace, and the result is a pleasant mix of classic puzzle and thriller. It's a very enjoyable combination.