Winter is the perfect time to read the British murder mystery novels, though I have always wondered why this genre is so popular in England. What is this fascination with cold blooded murders in closed country houses? In The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Kate Summerscale explains how the murder at the Road Hill house caught the nations fancy and inspired an entire generation of literature and must have laid the foundation for the Golden Age of the detective fiction and some of the first detectives in England.
There is something very genteel about the British mystery novel. There is no gore or loud action or twists and turns. There is suspense and the plot peels off in oniony layers, but it’s never scary. As a reader, you can sip a cup of tea and breeze through a novel which engages your mind pleasantly for a few hours.
Death at President’s Lodging plot is very similar to any “closed house limited number of suspects” murder stories. The crime happens, as the name suggests, at the President’s Lodgings in St. Anthony’s college. Since this is a college campus and is open to public during the day, the murderer could be anyone in the village. However, the access to the lodging is limited and controlled by a set of keys which are in the hands of a few people. The access to the college in which the lodge is located is limited at night and controlled by a set of keys, which is again the in the hands of a few people. All the possible suspects have air-tight, strangely corroborative alibis.
Michael Innes, employs his favorite detective to unravel the case, Inspector Appleby. The detective on arrival at St. Anthony’s college realizes that the murdered man was clearly not popular man (uh, duh!) and that the suspects are a bunch of formidable intellectual snobs, who are extremely capable of planning a brilliant murder.
Why I recommend this book is, because after a fairly long time, I felt so absorbed in a puzzle. There is something mathematical about the issue of the keys, and the number of entrances to the college and the sequence of events of the night of the murder. The solution to the mystery is really one of the most imaginative though slightly improbable.
Verdict: Highly recommended