Roger Butters

The Suicidal Solicitor

Early in the morning of the last day of 1842, in the middle of the small midland community of Churchfield, nominally a city because of its impressive cathedral, there is found the body of a murdered stranger, shotgun by his side, a finger clutched around the trigger in an attempt to suggest suicide. Nothing of the sort has occurred within living memory.

Another case for chess-playing sleuth Jim Danzig, of Castletown, and his partner in both senses of the word, Judith Hare. Local solicitor, millionaire and social climber Stuart Brooksbank, faced with imminent disgrace and financial ruin, has committed suicide. Or has he? His widow and son seem convinced that his death was murder.

A sceptical Danzig agrees to make enquiry, in the course of which he soon encounters an undoubted murder, not to mention an unsuccessful attempt to strangle the deceased’s widow. With little time or ability for modern technology, he sets about solving the mystery by his usual oldfashioned methods: logic, making a nuisance of himself, and a fair amount of luck, plus as ever information provided by his police friend and informant D.C. Nobby Clarke.

A punch-up with one of the main suspects, taking part in a shambolic Old Boys’ cricket match, and attending a wicca ceremony are all part of the job. At the end, Danzig and Hare as usual emerge triumphant, and a psychopathic murderer is brought to book.

Early in the morning of the last day of 1842, in the middle of the small midland community of Churchfield, nominally a city because of its impressive cathedral, there is found the body of a murdered stranger, shotgun by his side, a finger clutched around the trigger in an attempt to suggest suicide. Nothing of the sort has occurred within living memory.

The enquiries of Constable Buckingham lead him to the household of Elijah Lightfoot, respected banker and pillar of the local community. It soon becomes clear that not only Lightfoot himself but most of his family and their acquaintances have guilty secrets to conceal: adultery, fraud, blackmail, even a taste for pornographic pictures. Which of them knew and had reason to fear the dead man?

Yet not every member of the Lightfoot household is corrupt. The exception is their young governess, Agnes Bell, despised by her employers, reduced to despair by the antics of their monstrous children, and grieving over the recent death of the man she loved. As a means of partial excape from her misery she sets herself the task of uncovering the truth.

Physically delicate and agonizingly shy, Miss Bell is nevertheless a more formidable young lady than she appears. As the cosy and complacent world of the Lightfoots disintegrates into a nightmarish scenario of financial ruin, social disgrace and violent death, it is Miss Bell, steadfast in her pursuit of the truth, unafraid of death, and bearing more than a passing resemblance to Anne Brontë, who finally succeeds in her perilous and near-fatal quest for the murderer.

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