Murder at Beechlands by Maureen Sarsfield

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Inspector parry thought he’d stumbled into a lunatic asylum instead of a hotel.
  ‘Inspector Lane Parry of Scotland Yard finds himself on a busman’s holiday when he is forced to take refuge from a heavy snowstorm in a country hotel while traveling in Sussex in January 1948. When he first glimpses the hotel guests frolicking in the snow, he mistakes them for lunatics at play. Instead, he learns that they are all gusts invited to attend a homecoming party for a war hero.

  But when the battered body of Wing commander Lawton Lawrence turns up in the snow, Parry realizes that playtime is over and that a murderer is walking the halls of Beechlands. It doesn’t take Parry long to recognize that virtually everyone in the hotel had reason to see Lawty dead. He may have cut a ashing figure chasing German bombers and fighters in the skies over London, but he was also something of a cad and any number of women and their husbands had reason to want him dead.

  Suspects include the hotel’s bosomy and debt-ridden owner, a thief-turned-waiter, a French chef who never saw Paris, a Hollywood actress with a perpetually open mouth, two potential investors in the hotel, a woman given to wearing scanty dresses, a cuckolded husband, and a young woman whose ‘brown mouse’ demeanor conceals a clever brain as well as a forlorn heart.

  Murder at Beechlands was first published in 1948 in England as A Party for None and in the United States a A Party for Lawty. Inspector Parry’s only other appearance was in Murder at Shots Hall (originally Green December Fills the Graveyard) in 1945.’

This is a wonderful vintage mystery! Full of quirky characters, an old hotel, and a ferocious snow storm. Right up my alley! Inspector Lane is a great character. I only wish there were more tales from the pen of Maureen Sarsfield. After two, well received, mysteries she dropped from sight. No information has been found about her life or what happened to her.

Just because this tale is full of quirky people and lots of wonderful humor doesn’t mean it’s not a great mystery too. Well plotted out and lots of good clues all along. I think you’ll enjoy it! Not only was I anxious to get to the end to see who did it, but I had to find out why in heavens name Cintra’s mouth was always gaping wide open!

Rue Morgue has reprinted both Ms. Sarsfield mysteries, but for some reason, this one is no longer in print at Rue Morgue either. You will have to find a used copy. I have both mysteries and both of my copies are used Rue Morgue editions in like new condition.

Murder at Shots Hall

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Originally publishes as ‘Green December Grows the Graveyard’ and written in 1945 by Maureen Sarsfield. Ms. Sarsfield wrote 3 novels, two of which are mysteries and then dropped from sight. What a pity! I thoroughly enjoyed her writing and Inspector Parry was a very promising character. Great thanks to Rue Morgue Press for bringing this character back to life!

This British mystery was well written with lots of ‘barmy’ characters, to borrow the word used in the story. The plot moved at a nice pace with bits and pieces of humor sprinkled in. I loved the half bombed out old manor house and the wind and rain and the countryside.  I’m looking forward to reading the second and last in the Inspector Parry books (Murder at Beechlands).

Book description:
  Flikka Ashley and her outspoken Aunt Bee Chattock live in the ruins of a formerly great manor house called Shots Hall, located near a Sussex village named after it. Two-thirds of Shots Hall was destroyed by German incendiary bombs, leaving only its grand old tower, a cavernous great hall, the kitchen and a small drawing room. However genteel, poverty is still poverty, and the two women have been forced to make ends meet by selling off the occasional bottle of vintage port or prewar whiskey from the hall’s legendary cellars. Whatever their taste in architecture, the Chattocks thankfully knew their liquor.
  Thirty six year old Flikka also brings in some money as a sculptor, but so far her talent far exceeds her commissions. Those commissions have been even fewer of late since Flik began work on her masterpiece, a lifesized mermaid she is carving from a giant sea-green stone hauled to Shots Hall from Wales. She is as secretive about this project as she is about her personal life. There are any number of rumors about Flikka’s past, all of which she refuses to discuss. When Molly Pritchard, an old family retainer, is murdered, a loathsome local policeman – whose attentions ere spurned by Flik – sets out to measure her lovely neck for a noose. Scotland Yard’s Lane Parry doesn’t think Flikka is guilty, but he has to admit that she is doing little to prove her innocence.

If you love mysteries, especially vintage, you will enjoy this book. You’ll also love Rue Morgue Press, check it out!