Dr Hailey is on a visit with his friend, Colonel John MacCallien, in the Scottish Highlands when the local Procurator Fiscal (I had to look this up – apparently it’s the local coroner/public prosecutor in Scotland and nothing at all to do with finance or taxes!) arrives late one night announcing that a woman has been found murdered in a locked room in Duchlan Castle. The deceased is Mary McGregor, sister of the laird of Duchlan, but there is no murder weapon and no indication of how the murderer got in and out of the room. The only clue is a tiny silver fish scale on the body, a clue which eventually leads the frightened locals to believe the murder is the work of supernatural creatures known as ‘swimmers’ who live in the local lake. Ooh!
In my review of my first BLCC, Death in the Tunnel, I mentioned that I felt the characters/suspects of the novel weren’t given enough attention in the book. In Murder of A Lady, I have absolutely no such complaints. Anthony Wynne fleshes out his characters to vivid perfection, bringing to light their desires and troubles, enough to make me either loathe them bitterly or care for them very much and also to worry and fret as the noose drew tighter around their necks. Toward the end, I was definitely on the edge of my seat, wondering how Hailey was going to unravel this mystery and save the day! Much attention is also given to the personality of the murder victim a la Agatha Christie, as Hailey and co sought to understand just who she was so as to garner clues as to how and why she was killed.
The supernatural element of the ‘swimmers’ added a touch of spookiness and melodrama to the story. Wynne paints a dramatic picture of the Scottish Highlands with the old Duchlan castle next to a Loch Ness-esque lake. It was a great setting for, well, the murder of a lady! And as the bodies began to pile up, I could feel the tension in the characters as they wandered the castle grounds, looking over their shoulder, wondering if they were going to be next!
I also really enjoyed the Scottish element to the book with the ongoing animosity between the Highlanders and the Lowlanders, the eccentricities of the Duchlan family and the fierce loyalties and superstitions of the local people.
All in all, a highly favourable book and one that comes highly recommended by me. I’m looking forward to reading more of Anthony Wynne’s books starring Dr Hailey!