I read this book for the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge 2014. The challenge is to read 6 or more Vintage Mysteries. All novels must have been originally written before 1960 and be from the mystery category.
I read this for G-7 Mystery set in any country except the US or Britain
Engaged to Murder – M.V. Heberden, 1949
This mystery is set in Buenos Aries, Argentina and concerns PI Rick Vanner’s investigation into the murder of a French diplomat and then another murder to silence one who knew too much about said killing.
The setting is so well done that one wonders if Heberden in fact had deeper experience overseas than just as a tourist. Local color seems authentic with polite servants, goofy traffic, sharp business practices, and dodgy police. The native English speakers divide into two camps, the native-born to Argentina with roots in the UK and the expatriates such as dips and business executives.
Also interesting is the backdrop of WWII. The series hero Vanner worked for Naval Intelligence during the war and turned his skills to the private sector, helping multi-national companies fix their problems in the horror of abroad. The chief suspect worked with Vanner in the Navy. Other suspects carry literal and figurative scars from living in France during the Nazi occupation. Heberden serves up serious points about resistance and collaboration which are telling without being somber or distracting from the mystery plot.
I found plot, incident, and characterization all plausible. The reveal depended on the familiar device of gathering all suspects in a room. Heberden’s readable prose is clear and concise, never perfunctory. The M.V. stands for Mary Violet so readers looking for pre-Paretisky, pre-Muller female mystery writer should check her out.