I read this for the 2015 Cloak and Dagger Mystery Reading Challenge
Murder at Shots Hall - Maureen Sarsfield, 1945
This golden age mystery is set in a rural village in England just after WWII. A fiend is poisoning the retainers of an old family. Evidence points to a 30-ish female artist, the last member of the family. Wagging tongues allege that the artist is knocking off retainers because they know too much about her wanton personal life. The local swine of a policeman wants to hang her and mopes because the Yard has been called in. The Yard inspector is smart and handsome and winning. Of course.
The murders hinge on the unvarying routines of the village people. The culprit must be a local; otherwise, how could anyone know how the victims took their tea and poison them in such a stealthy way? The murders unglue the locals, who have all they can put up with dealing with the pervasive fog the author endlessly refers to. Wind and rain, mud and wet contribute to the stifling gloom of the setting.
But the characters are not melancholy. Both the artist and her aunt are strong independent women. The police officers, but for the swine, are all well-drawn and convincing. The local doctor is an intense young crab. The locals are down-to-earth. The pacing and humor are appealing. This is a joker sergeant’s report:
Report from Sgt. Congreve. All except the following, in and around Shotshall, had alibis for the night of December 1st between the hours of 19:45 and 21:00: Capt. Belairs, who said he was in his house reading. Miss Chattock, of Shots Hall, who said she was in her house doing nothing. Mrs. Ashely who said what she was doing but it is not proven. Mrs. Vale who said she was asleep in front of her fire which had gone out. Harry Fewsey the butcher who was cutting up meat in his shop and said anyone ought to have been able to hear him doing it only no one did. Winnie Marsh who said she had one round the corner, which one she would not say, to meet a boyfriend she won't say either as it is not her regular one Bill Ellison, and she said not to tell about it as Bill Ellison would be mad.
It’s a bit longer than I like a mystery due to usual romance angle and the main suspect sitting on information due to her mistaken assumptions about how the world works. There’s also an Allinghamesque tendency to go on about the heroine’s lovely looks. On the other hand, she deploys less frequently used verbs aptly.
Overall this is an excellent mystery that I recommend without reservation.