Sunday, January 4, 2015

{Review} MURDER BY BEQUEST by John Spencer Yantiss

ASIN #: B009GCYQ58
File Size: 2390 KB
Page Count: 346
Copyright: September 24, 2012
Publisher: John Spencer Yantiss

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

With the story opening on the scene of a “family squabble” between the two main (series) characters, Sherrod Reynard Colsne (pronounced kōn, with silent “l” and “s”) and Montague Boyd “Monty” Weston, the latter makes casual mention of a recent and bizarre murder, in an attempt to arouse his employer and friend to action. Action in this sense means business, the work of a professional detective. Little does Monty know that his choice of stimulus is prophetic. When he storms out to go for a walk, even though it is bitterly cold, he almost literally runs into Eleanor Catherine Harkness, eldest scion of the murdered man, Bertrand Wellman Harkness, IV. Convinced that the authorities are botching the investigation, she has come to hire him, Monty, to find the killer. She chose him because since high school she followed his career, having succumbed to a “béguin” for him.

After learning the purpose of her visit, and explaining that he cannot undertake to do the job for her without Colsne’s agreement and participation, indeed, direction, he takes her into the office. Colsne swiftly divines the situation, and graciously invites Miss Harkness to explain her mission in detail, offering his deepest sympathy for her loss. The upshot is that he, Colsne, takes the job, and after the formalities of retainer—to establish his bona fides, should there be family or official objections—and personal preparation, the three travel in Colsne’s Cautsfield town car to the Harkness mansion. Once there the adults of the extended family, gathered to deal with the recent tragedy, are summoned to a meeting in the large drawing room.

That very night, after the conclave breaks up, and after Colsne keeps a prior engagement at the theater with Miss Waverly, he and His Grace, who agreed to join them, visit the scene of the crime, next to Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center. In the process, Burlingham lets fall some spoken thoughts about his deceased friend, and sparks Colsne to begin a series of surmises, ultimately leading to the truth.

Next morning, Saturday, Eleanor calls Monty, a cry for rescue. She needs him there with her, being harried to exasperation, and must go to a hotel to get away from the family, many of whom feel her to have made a gross mistake in hiring Colsne and Weston. Monty goes to her and, after a confrontation with her mother, Camille Hyde Harkness, whisks her away to, not a hotel, but the granite palace. With Colsne’s full approval she is ensconced at East 75th street, and the investigation deepens and expands, some of it unbeknownst to Monty—a not unfamiliar move on the part of Colsne.

That night, Colsne manages to gather four of the family, the Lighteners and the William Harknesses, and bring them back with him to the granite palace for further questioning. A prolonged and rigorous questioning of Mattie Lightener reveals some highly suggestive information which later proves to be of paramount importance in pinpointing the murderer. That inquiry is violently interrupted by an outburst of powerful automatic weapon fire out front. With this third assault on the Harkness family, not to mention his own person and home, Colsne pulls out all the stops, calling in the three operatives he most often uses, and communicating with a fellow professional on the other side of the globe—a fact we do not learn until the end of the story.

With details provided by Colsne, in the epilogue Monty gives his readers a full explanation of how a romance and elopement on the Indian Sub-continent, a quarter-century before, resulted in a triple murder by a mad and passionate, yet subtle and wily woman.

Kathy's Review:

If this book was a geographical location, it would be the Sahara Desert. It is dry. Written in the style that perhaps Arthur Conan Doyle himself employed 100+ years ago, it is simply bogged down in elocution. This would be ok, if not for the fact that this is a modern murder mystery taking place in current day. Therefore it seemed like a disconnect from the very beginning.

I must admit that I didn’t get very far in this novel because I became frustrated with the tone of the novel. It seemed like it could be a good story - I always enjoy a well-told mystery - but I just could not get past the density of the language. Refer to the book summary above, which takes several paragraphs to come to a point.

Even the dialogue seemed out of place - you would never meet people who spoke like this in present day. I get it that maybe the author was trying to harken back to the Sherlock Holmes days, but it just doesn’t fit, in my opinion.

*An ecopy of this novel was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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