4 out of 4 stars
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Goodnight Irene by James Scott Byrnside is an excellent example of a locked-room whodunnit, reminiscent of Agatha Christie at her most devious. So let us all gather in the library, and we will examine the evidence.
Exhibit 1. The detectives. Rowan Manory is a private detective whose health and confidence have been shattered by a disastrous case where a woman and her baby died. After being out of work for four months, Manory and his sidekick, Walter Williams, are invited to investigate a death threat received by one Robert Lasciva. Not only will this case pay well, it also has links to an unsolved rape and murder from 20 years ago. Manory’s mother was involved in the original investigation, and it haunted her all her life. Manory decides to take the current case in the hope that he may also solve the historical one. The detectives arrive at Lasciva’s mansion, but are unprepared for the unaccountable, perplexing and bloody events of the night.
Exhibit 2. The clues. It is possible for the reader to solve most if not all of this crime, as many of the clues seen by the detectives are also seen by the reader. However, I felt that some of the clues were rather overstated. But that doesn’t mean that the solution was easy to achieve. The book is exciting and very hard to put down. When I wasn’t reading, I found myself doing mental gymnastics as I pondered the conundrum.
Exhibit 3. Research and editing. Set during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, this book is very well researched and well written. The author has a love of words, and I expanded my vocabulary to include cachinnate, chatoyant, tenebrous and cerulean. I learned quite a few new slang terms as well. The book looks to have been professionally edited, though I did find a few errors in the text and the formatting. I also found one blip in the research. Charles’s father died of Legionnaires’ disease, but that strain of pneumonia wasn’t identified and named until 1976.
Exhibit 4. Lightening the mood. It’s not all murder and mayhem. The easy relationship between Manory and Williams, and their gentle banter, is indicative of a long and close friendship and provides a lift to the story. Manory also has the amusing habit of correcting ‘who’ and ‘whom’, regardless of the situation.
The closing statement. I really enjoyed this book. The story was exciting and perplexing, and there was never a dull moment. This book will appeal to anyone who likes a good crime mystery of the Agatha Christie ilk. The characters even gathered in the library for the denouement in true Poirotesque style, and there is also a butler who may or may not have ‘dunnit’.
The verdict. If half points were allowed, I would rate this 3.5, halfway between ‘amazing’ and ‘recommended’. A rating of 3 would be churlish and wouldn’t reflect how immersed I became in this book, so I am awarding it 4 out of 4 stars.
The defence rests.
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