Murder at the Loch

Written by Eric Brown
Review by Rebecca Henderson Palmer

It’s after World War II in London, and crime novelist Donald Langham and his fiancée, Maria Dupré, are looking forward to a May wedding. But before they can make plans, private detective Ralph Ryland asks his friend to accompany him to the Scottish Highlands. Their former commanding officer, Major Cartwright, now owns a castle there, where he invites guests to stay. After a recent near miss with a bullet, the major feels his life is in danger, and urges Ryland to find out who may want him dead. Langham reluctantly agrees to join Ryland, where a winter storm quickly buries them in snow. At the castle, a strange assortment of characters has gathered, many to help the major salvage the wreck of a German airplane now at the bottom of the nearby loch. When fellow guests start turning up dead, Langham and Ryland are convinced that the murderer is trying to block the recovery of the plane. With all the suspects locked up together in the castle during the storm, Langham and Ryland must race to identify the killer before they and the major become the next targets.

This is an Agatha Christie-esque mystery with the usual eclectic cast of characters. Due to the storm and remoteness of the castle, the list of suspects is not long. The unfortunate part is that the mystery behind the wreck of the German plane is the most intriguing aspect of the story, and that is treated only as a backdrop. How it got there and why no one knows much about it are never addressed, and yet Langham and Ryland are certain, from the earliest moments, that the wreck is the killer’s motivation. Langham and Ryland make for a charming crime-fighting pair, but suspense is somewhat secondary.