Two Erskines and a Cleeves

Inspector Septimus Finch of Scotland Yard: He has an instinct for impending crime, a sixh sense for murder. His deceptively bland face and lazy walk hide an uncanny acumen for investigation. And from the busy pub on Fleet Street below his London flat to lonely country inns in the nooks and crannies of England, they raise a tankard of good Guinnes stout to salute him as the Yard’s top specialist in cases of sudden death.

The Family at Tammerton 1966 Book 14 in the Inspector Septimus Finch series

Murder by the Sea – Tammerton Hall stood in dark magnificence in an isolated spot near the seaside town of Lockbridge. Its mullioned windows had reflected the long thin faces of the Maule family since Tudor times. London nurse Louise Morton had taken an assignment there because she felt a sudden longing for the country – and because the patient was a dear friend of Matron’s. That was what made the arrival of the telegram so odd. “MRS. CRANE IS DEAD. DO NOT SEND NURSE.” Mrs. Crane was very much alive and expecting her. But someone didn’t want Nurse Morton at Tammerton. Some one desperate enough to murder.

I enjoy these Septimus Finch novels. Ms. Erskine does characters so well! I get invested in them right off the get go. Even after I finished this little gothic mystery I found myself thinking about Louise Morton and wondering about her. Crazy, I know! Louise Morton took this job to get out of the city and enjoy some time in the country. She met Inspector Finch on the train out to Lockbridge. In conversation she told him about the telegram and he warned her…

Finch nodded. “There’s the possibility that you may find yourself in considerable danger.”

Louise shook her head. “I don’t think that’s likely,” she said decidedly. “With the possible exception of Roger Crane, the Maules are all madly respectable.”

“My dear girl, it’s the respectable ones who are most to be feared because they have the most to lose. Consider, for instance,” Finch begged her earnestly, “the high ratio of murders committed simply to avoid the scandal of a divorce.”

Louise suppressed a giggle with difficulty. “You’re not suggesting that anyone’s likely to try and murder me?”

“I’m suggesting that someone at Tammerton has a very good reason for not wanting you there. And, that being so, they may try to remove you.”

Louise thought it silly and didn’t see any danger – until she met Kathie Kelvin! They had a past together. Could she be in danger? Would Kathie hurt her to keep the secret secret? Then Miss Chumleigh is found murdered. She knew of the secret. So many suspects! Good suspects, interesting suspects. I loved eccentric Aunt Agnes. More murders followed, would Finch find the killer in time to protect Louise? Would Louise find love with one of the supects?

Case with Three Husbands   1967   Book 15 Inspector Finch series

Murder at the Towers – Grey and gloomy, the Towers, a vast Victorian Mansion, was a most appropriate home for the eccentric Bonner family – and the perfect setting for murder. The mystery actually began when the beautiful and much-married Rose Bonner became suspicious that one of her late husbands was not as dead as she thought. But was it this ghost of a marriage past that gave old Aunt Agatha such a terrible shock on the eve of her seventy-fifth birthday – and then murdered her in her bed? The Bonner family felt that only Inspector Finch could catch the flesh and blood killer, and he quite agreed, for he had already dug up the crucial clue: a buried pair of size ten men’s shoes.

Inspector Finch is recuperating from a gun shot wound in this one. He goes to the shore with his surgeon and friend Adam Braithwaite to recuperate. Adam is taking over his dad’s local office and patients while he is on vacation and thought it would be the perfect place for Finch to recover and rest. Before he even gets to White Cottage outside of Tynan he overhears a frantic woman speaking to Adam’s father in the next exam room and his interest is peaked and he thinks he has a juicy mystery to keep him busy as he convalesces…

“…always known us,” it said. “My family and yours have been neighbours for years. We’re eccentric but, not neurotic…”   “…you may not approve but under the circumstances it did give a certain amount of…”   “…those three late husbands had become friends. That’s not as unlikely as it might seem. All of them were…”   “…there was this light I tell you. Yet when I got down there was no one. No one at all. He’d gone. Like a ghost…”   “…someone spoke my name. The way one might if onesmet unexpectedly – after a long time. I called out, but no one answered… It was dark. I couldn’t see…”

There followed only silence. The overheard conversation suggested several things to Finch. Illegal entry for one. bigamy perhaps. Even blackmail. Was the doctor now persuading her to see a psychaitrist? What she really wantd was a policeman. An astute and experienced officer such as himself.  

Another excellent plot with engaging characters and lots of wonderful suspects, dead and alive! This one has Cherie the poodle who finds the shoes buried on the beach and digs them up and presents them to Finch as he stands watching a young man swim in the ocean. Cherie is a lovely character in this story. Will Finch and Cherie find the owners of shoes? And more importantly why he doesn’t need them anymore and who put them there? 

I went straight into the third Erskine I had on my shelf since I enjoyed these two so much. I’m reading The Woman at Belguardo now. Previously I read No. 9 Belmont Square. You can read my thoughts on it here.

A Lesson in Dying    1990  Book 1  Inspector Ramsay series

Headmaster Harold Medburn was dead, and nobody in the village regretted it. Appropriately, it was on the evening of the village Halloween party that Medburn’s body, dressed in academic cap and gown, was found swinging from the school’s rusty netball hoop. And although his death brought fear to some hearts, relief was the dominant response, for Medburn had been a bully, taking pleasure in tormenting whoever came within his reach.

The police accuse Medburn’s wife, Kitty, of killing her husband because he was about to leave her for another woman; but Jack Robson, the school caretaker, who had loved Kitty when they were classmates years ago, disagrees. Helped by his clever daughter Patty, he does his homework among Medburn’s friends and neighbors and finds half a dozen of them had powerful motives for murdering the hated headmaster.

But it is in the ugly secrets of Medburn’s life and in the dark passions that sometimes ensnare good people that Robson finally discovers the tragic and desperately dangerous truth…

This was actually the last book I read in 2020. Ann Cleeves always gives us a good puzzler and characters. Some of the reviews I read on Goodreads said they didn’t like this because Robson and his daughter seemed to do more of the sleuthing than Inspector Ramsay, but I liked it. It was a good vehicle for us to see into the inhabitants of the village and to discover who Inspector Ramsay is in this first in the series. I wouldn’t mind reading more with Jack Robson and Patty as amateur sleuths! Cleeves early books are wonderful, but she only gets better with time! Her Shetland books are among my favorite reads!

It’s a dreary February day here in East TN. We are due to get 1-3 inches of snow and things are canceled. We stocked up some on groceries and are looking forward to a couple days just staying in and being lazy and reading and watching old movies. All our birthdays are this week so we will pig out on lemon cake for Donald yesterday, cherry cheese cake for the boyo, who is turning 44 tomorrow! My baby! And cherry pie for me on Thursday. Looking forward to this week! Hope your week is terrific!

No. 9 Belmont Square by Margaret Erskine

‘A strange house, filled with ancient sin – and in it, a frightened girl fighting an evil force she could not see or touch…

No. 9 Belmont square was very old, and so was everyone in it – all but Sara Harkness, and to her fell the responsibility of protecting the people she had inherited with the house.

But one of the seemingly gentle old people was a murderer, and Sara, helpless and alone, stood in the way of a perfect crime.

Just as a plague of new horrors started, Inspector Finch ands young assistant arrived on the scene. Sara was no longer alone – but were they too late to save her?’

Sara inherits this monstrosity of a house and all the old tenants in it. She moves there thinking it will be a good way to earn money and help her brother get his acting career off the ground. Everything revolves around her golden child brother. She did promise her mother she would help him attain the heights they knew he was capable of. But were they wearing rose colored glasses?

After a television program about a famous opera singers life and the story of his romance with a young woman before the war and a mysterious diamond she had, both of which disappeared after the war, was televised everything changed. The opera star showed up at her house looking for the woman and the diamond. Was she one of the old residents? Was the famous Lake of Fire diamond hidden here? What was it about this man that caused Sara to fear him? Were past accidental deaths at the home really murders? When a new murder takes place and Scotland Yard is called in things really heat up! Will the police sergeant be able to save Sara and will their attraction to each other bloom into something more?

The local police are working with Scotland Yard on this one and they are none to pleased to have them in their backyard…

“The Superintendent walked away. Police work was police work and all laid down in the manual but the Scotland Yard man seemed to think it could be worked out by some crazy system of his own.”

Sara speaking to Inspector Finch from SY, thinking her brother might be the culprit!

When she did speak it was to say wonderingly, “How patient you have to be once you’ve killed someone-and how watchful. All these months-years really. alert for any sign of danger, the merest breath of suspicion’ She added with a great deal of self reproach, “I don’t seem to have been very bright, do I?”

Finch was shocked. “My dear girl, it isn’t your place to go around suspecting crime. It isn’t even safe. Don’t try and find the answer for yourself. The murderer will be watching every move you make in this house. And now he doesn’t have so many things to worry about – except to make sure it’s a dead body he leaves behind him…”

Is it her beloved brother? You’ll have to read it to find out!

Wichita Falls Times said… “Suspense leaps from page to page.”  

Peggy Ann