Who Pays the Piper? (an Ernest Lamb Mystery) by Patricia Wentworth
Rating: Very Good
Description: Lucas Dale always gets what he wants. And this time he wants another man’s fiancée: Susan Lenox. Never mind that she’s engaged to Bill Carrick, an up-and-coming architect without a farthing to his name. Cathleen O’Hara, Dale’s mousy social secretary, serves as the unwitting instrument of his plan, and a nasty blackmail scheme is set in motion. Soon, Susan has no choice but to break off her engagement and agree to marry Dale—until he’s found in his study with a bullet in his head.
Scotland Yard is called in, and before long, Inspector Ernest Lamb and Detective Frank Abbott have a suspect: Carrick. But as Lamb and Abbott dig deeper, they discover others with means, motive, and opportunity, including the victim’s penniless former wife who was handy with a gun, and his American business partner who wanted the money Dale owed him. No one has an alibi for the time of Dale’s demise. And someone else will die before the price of murder is paid.
Who Pays the Piper? is the 2nd book in the Ernest Lamb Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
Genre: Mystery - Classic
Why I Picked This Book: I'm a long time fan of Patricia Wentworth and was trilled to see that Open Road Media was republishing a number of her books in ebook form and even more thrilled when I realized it was a few I haven't read yet!
My Impression: This book made me want to take a cup of tea, a scone, and my Kindle and lock myself in a room for a few hours and just read. I discovered Patricia Wentworth about the same time I discovered Agatha Christie and they're both two of my favorite authors. It was a special treat to discover a new-to-me mystery by a favorite author.
The evil rich guy who finally gets murdered is a plot that Wentworth used a pretty good bit but somehow she always makes it feel fresh and different. This one is no exception. Lucas Dale is the worst kind of evil - a wolf in sheep's clothing who stops at nothing to get what he wants. After he manipulates the beautiful and beloved Susan Lenox into an engagement he's found shot to death with Susan's former fiance, Bill Carrick, at the scene. He's the obvious suspect but in the land of Patricia Wentworth nothing is as it seems. The mystery twists and turns with lots of leads and suspects and more than a few motives. I adore Lamb and Abbot's relationship. Frank Abbot is kind of the new generation of Scotland Yard - from a fine family with an aristocratic education - and is a good detective but can be quick to judgement and frequently has a pithy remark and the older, higher ranking, and more solid Lamb has to slap him down which is a joy to watch. Lamb reminds me a little bit of Agatha Christie's Superintendent Battle. He's easy to underestimate which is an incredibly dangerous to do. He's an amazing detective but at the same time can be very sympathetic and kind.
However, I'm used to seeing both Lamb and Abbot with Miss Maude Silver (Wentworth's version of Miss Marple) and she brings out a little more personality from both men. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Lamb and Abbot on their own but I'm not sure I would have enjoyed this one quite as much if it wasn't for meeting them Miss Silver first.
This is a very well done entertaining mystery with likable characters and a solution I bet most readers won't figure out until the final reveal. If you're a fan of Agatha Christie or other classic mystery writers you must give Patricia Wentworth a try!
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes! I hadn't realized how much I missed Wentworth and her characters until I started reading this one. If I could have reached into the book and given Lamb a hug of delight the second he appeared on the page I would have.
Would I Recommend this Book?: Absolutely though you may want to start with one of the Miss Silver books first (except Gray Mask. I didn't care for that one.)