Duchlan Castle is a gloomy place in the Scottish Highlands. Late one night the body of Mary Gregor, sister of the laird, is found in the castle. She has been stabbed to death in her locked bedroom. The only tiny clue to the culprit is a silver fish's scale, left on the floor next to Mary's body.
Inspector Dundas is dispatched to investigate. The Gregor family and their servants are quick to explain that Mary was a kind and charitable woman, but Dundas uncovers a more complex truth.
Soon further deaths occur. Superstitious locals believe that fish creatures from the nearby waters are responsible, but luckily for Inspector Dundas, gifted amateur sleuth Eustace Hailey is on the scene.
©2015 Estate of Anthony Wynne (P)2016 Soundings
I have been enjoying the release of some of the older 'classic' detective stories, and this is one in that vein. At first I thought it would be a 'mental puzzle - locked room' book, which in a sense it was; but the characters were more interesting than is normally the case in that genre. Then I thought it might tip over into post-Victorian 'blood and thunder' romanticism; but while that was a real risk, and the story is dramatic in the classic sense, with lots of stuff about 'the Highland character' somehow it managed to rise above that and remain genuinely engaging. Perhaps this was partly because it was a convincing example of the thoughts and opinions that were prevalent at the time of its writing, which gave it a kind of authenticity of its own.
At any rate, I found myself gripped both by the twists and turns of the plot and by the characters, romanticised though they were.
I particularly enjoyed the character of the doctor who is the leading detective. He managed to remain thoughtful, rational and kindly. Some of the plot developments were genuinely surprising; I won't go into any details as I don't want to spoil other readers' pleasure, but they will know them when they encounter them!
This is the first performance I have heard by James Bryce. As soon as I finish this review I am going to so look for others by him.
This being a detective story, it operates on a cerebral rather than an emotional level. Nonetheless, the central emotional situation, which turns on the manipulative character of the lady in the book's title, is surprisingly believable despite its dramatic exaggeration.
Possibly because of my family connection to Loch Fyne, I greatly enjoyed the way the setting was used as part of the overall drama. Small details about life there at the time of the book (e.g. the way the steamboats of fish merchants would go out to meet the fleet as it returned) added colour without breaking up the narrative.
I don't often listen to books a second time, but I will do so with this one. I'm not quite able to put my finger on why I found it so absorbing, but this one really gripped my imagination.
I have endured as much of this novel as I can. I am at chapter 31 and almost half of the household and an investigating officer have died!!! This has gone beyond an interesting and amazing locked room mystery, to a pompous farce, where, if credibility was even remotely a factor, the entire household would have been taken into custody!
I cannot and will not listen to the rest of this - I shall be seeking a refund - it would have benefited from a lot less prose and a much reduced plot. There are too many soliloquies, which do not move the plot along, and hinders more than they help. The narration is slow and on occasion you are at a loss as to who is talking. But by the middle, you no longer care.
If this were in written form, the temptation would be to go to the final chapter to find out whodunnit! But at this point, I don't really care!
In my opinion, don't believe the hype. I believe that I'm the first to write a review. So, if you do purchase this audiobook and enjoy it!!!! Please submit a review and let others know what I failed to appreciate.
Yes, probably. The story develops slowly and is definitely not fast paced but the characterisation is nicely done and it would be nice to revisit at a later date.
It is very much of it's time but none the worse for that. I liked the Jonathan Creek style locked room mystery which had a nice, neat solution at the end. There is much more characterisation than is often found in stories from this period and I found the pace suited the story well. The ending was a little abrupt but apart from that I thoroughly enjoyed the story.
The end of these stories is always satisfying but I found the whole story a pleasant listen. The scene of the isolated and feudal Scottish Castle with it's old hidden family secrets is nicely set up and provides an evocative backdrop for the tale.
Death Strikes in the Heart of the Highlands
A slow paced gentle locked room mystery imbued with the atmosphere of the Highlands - nicely told and beautifully read - fans of the first three series of Jonathan Creek should enjoy this.
I am 68, married for 48 of them. I like making things. I listen to my stories at bedtime. I like detective stories not too scary though.
I almost gave up half way through because I thought it a predicted story of mis justice but another murder then gave an unexpected twist. I am glad I stuck it out. Overall, a very good mystery story.
"Solid "Golden Age" Mystery"
In some respects this book made me think of a P.D. James novel. Much of it is filled with gradual revealing of the personalities and interactions between the different characters. The mystery itself is not that fantastic and, for me, not as interesting as the stories of the people. Nonetheless the writing and the story were involving for me.
I found the narration to be well above solid and feel it added a great deal to the feel of the novel.
It is far from a more modern detective or slasher story and one that might appeal only to folks with an appetite for a period piece story. However, for those of us who seek out such novels it might be a real treasure.
A haunting story, very tight, clipped dialogue, completely compelling. This one grabbed hold of my mind and would not let go. I couldn't sleep until I finished it. The reader is perfect and impeccable.
Don't read this if you are prone to nightmares, but definitely do if you love a psychological terror.
"Solid golden age detective story"
Like able detective. Good mystery. I figured out the who about the same time as the detective but not the how.
A solid golden age detective story to be read by all fans of the genre.
"The Silver Scale Mystery of 1931"
I've been meaning to read this book for years. It was always described as "the" classic murder mystery by those who recommended it. I'm glad I waited to tackle it on audio because James Bryce's narration is truly superb.
When the lady in question is murdered, it appears for all the world to be a classic locked room mystery. But nothing is quite what it seems in this story, and there are layers of psychological suspense and characterization that are unusual in a mystery of its time.
That said, it drags in places. To modern ears not used to classic detective fiction, it might not be a good fit. But if you do love old school murder mysteries, give it a go, and if you love Scotland, that recommendation goes double.
Now make sure you have your Dundee cakes ready for Hogmanay, and have a jolly New Year.
"Scottish Golden Age"
This golden age mystery set in Scotland was an interesting listen. However, I did feel that it dragged more than I prefer. I have read and listened to many mysteries and novels set in England/Scotland between WWI and WWII and this one somehow had a more "dated" feel than many others. I am glad to have listened to it and added Anthony Wynne to my list of Golden Age mystery authors, but I am less apt to re-listen to this one than to most.
"A Mystery Till The End"
This book caught my full attention and held it to the very end. Set in a beautiful Scottish Castle . There are so many characters . Enjoyed it very much.
"Very slow, didn't stand the passing of time"
This book is one of the British historical library's choice for republishing. Unfortunately, it didn't stand the passing of time. Although the narration was very good, the book is very slow to our contemporary taste, and full of lyricism in odd places - the detective in the middle of an elaboration to the reasoning of a recent murder, stops to contemplate the beauty of the beach. There's also a lot of people trying to kill themselves for the honor of family name, to protect a loved one, etc. Meanwhile, bodies are dropping like flies without anybody coming up with reasonable clues. People, instead, are afraid that murders are being realized by mythical creatures... And finally, the author used a gimmick to stop the police work (I'm not telling what in case you still want to listen to this book) twice! The first time it's ok, but the second time you think - oh come on!
"Excellent story. Great performance. "
Such a satisfying tale. Can't wait to find this author and performer again. Francie Patton.
"A waste of time"
If you're looking for something to help you fall asleep then this is the book for you.
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