Content Warning: Xenophobic comments and attitudes, misogyny, verbal spousal abuse, mention of suicide, references to blood, murder.
The Unfinished Clue
- Part of my Mystery Book Haul from The Green Hand Bookshop
- 220 pages
Sir Arthur Billington-Smith was nobody’s idea of the perfect host. In fact he was absolutely frightful. He bullied his wife, grumped at his guests, refused gleefully to help out an indigent friend, and positively blew his stack when his wayward son took up with a nightclub dancer who was definitely N.Q.O.C. (Not Quite Our Class.) Is it any wonder that one fine, bright, English June morning Sir Arthur Billington-Smith quite literally became a bloody bore when he was firmly stabbed in the back with a pretty little Chinese dagger? And is it any wonder that dev’lishly attractive Inspector Harding from London thought everyone was guilty?
While I put the charming edition shown above on my 20 Books of Summer TBR, I must admit that I listened to the audiobook instead of physically reading The Unfinished Clue. For a number of reasons that are mostly too dull to list here, I knew I wasn’t going to finish this book if I had to sit down and read it (aka I needed a version of it with which I could multitask). Now that I made it to the end, I’m quite glad I experienced the story in this way.
Reading the synopsis I expected sarcasm, irony, blasphemous scandal (in terms of 1930s English society), and of course, a murder mystery. The book delivered all of that and more, although the first four or five chapters were a bit slow-going when it came to the plot.
There are almost a dozen main characters, and the reader is thrown in among them from the start. Dialogue and those characters are the main focus of the entire story, which I didn’t necessarily expect. The murder is a significant event, but by establishing Sir Arthur Billington-Smith (the murdered man) as a detestable, horrible man during the first few chapters, finding out who committed the crime takes a subtle backseat to finding out what will become of the now widowed Fay (and her “secret” admirer), her sister Dinah, Geoffrey (son to Sir Arthur) and his betrothed (the subject of the first scandal in the book), and the weekend visitors to Sir Arthur’s estate; all of whom are entangled in each others’ affairs—in one way or another.
Georgette Heyer’s writing style is pretty straightforward. It’s not terribly indulgent or, dare I say, consuming. But that’s not to say it does not satisfy. As I mentioned above, her characters and their conversations take up nearly all the space in the narrative, which actually effectively moves the story along at a practical pace. Her writing gives the story a dramatic atmosphere while still feeling realistic; I enjoyed all the tender moments, the detective interviews, all the ironic jabs, sarcastic remarks, and statements of devotion.
The sweet romance that comes to a head at the end of the novel was wonderfully surprising (in general and because of the two characters who fall in love), and the unfinished clue proves to be title-worthy. I do recommend this if you love a big cast of characters with distinguished personalities, a murder mystery, and romance, and you definitely can’t go wrong with the audiobook if that option is available to you.
Have you heard of or read any of Georgette Heyer’s books? Which one(s) would you recommend—I am looking forward to reading more! Let’s chat in the comments.