I Could Murder Her

“You see…she was a maddening woman. She was selfish and domineering and intolerably inquisitive. At one time we had a gag in this house. I.C.M.H.–‘I could murder her.’ We’ve all said it, at one time or another.”

The second book in the omnibus is I Could Murder Her, by E.C.R. Lorac., which is a police procedural set at an English house in London after the Second World War. All her mysteries feature Chief Inspector Robert Macdonald, who is described as kind and just–in short, pretty decent for a detective.

Windermere House has a grand total of nine permanent residents plus the daily charwoman. And the matriarch of them all is Muriel Farrington, who is adored by her husband and eldest son and despised by everyone else. When she is given a fatal shot of insulin, Macdonald and Reeves find far too many motives. Was it Anne Strange, tired of living in her mother-in-law’s house? Peter, desparate for money to pay his debts? Or stepdaughter Madge, a former nurse kept running the household so Muriel can keep an eye on her?

I was able to guess the solution about halfway through by eliminating everyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t have done it and seeing who was left. In fact, we never even set eyes on one of the residents at all. The focus of the book is more on the investigation itself–questioning the witnesses, untangling their skeins of testimony to nail down alibis and timelines, and leaving no detail unturned. There aren’t red herrings per se, but a lot of loose ends and discrepancies that need to be sorted out, all the while watching for the house to eventually blow it’s top. Which it does in grand fashion, with no less than two suicide attempts in an effort to hide the truth.

You can tell that Lorac is a woman (Edith Caroline Rivett), because other than Macdonald she focuses on female characters as where the passions lie–Madge, Anne, Paula, Mrs. Pinks, and even Muriel. The whole story is an interesting scrutiny of human emotion and interaction.

This is one of those books that really makes me bemoan my own lack of observational skills. I know we can’t all be Sherlock Holmes, but so many witnesses here are able to give precise details in their testimonies, even for events that at the time had little import. I have a decent memory, but when it comes down to it I think I would be an utter dunce if cross-examined, and probably not even be able to say what I ate for breakfast the week before!

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Published in: on August 9, 2009 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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