A Dangerous Deceit

Written by Marjorie Eccles
Review by Marina Maxwell

Margaret Rees-Talbot is engaged to marry curate Simon Scroope, but her happiness is overshadowed by the recent death of her father, Boer War hero Osbert Rees-Talbot. Was it an accident or was it suicide? And is it just coincidence that the body of an unknown man is discovered buried on the family estate at about the same time? When a third suspicious death of a local businessman occurs, and the major clue is that all three men had some link to South Africa, Detective Inspector Herbert Reardon and Sergeant Joe Gilmour have their work cut out for them to discover if the deaths are connected.

This murder mystery set in the English countryside in the mid-1920s has all the usual hallmarks of the genre, including fading aristocrats and a crumbling family pile, a wastrel heir with flighty flapper wife, dodgy business dealings and secrets from the past that inevitably invite blackmail. The policemen are the usual plods whose task is complicated by an ambitious woman journalist.

As the novel has an omniscient style, none of the characters have lead roles, and there are abrupt shifts in points of view as well as odd unfinished threads involving people who have no real bearing on the plot. The core mystery is predictable, and the conclusion seems half-baked. Fans of Marjorie Eccles and others who like their crimes on the “cosy” side and aren’t bothered by her erratic style will probably enjoy the novel, but it may not appeal to readers who prefer their whodunnits more tightly constructed or with added grit.