Alexander Inglis's Reviews > Footsteps in the Dark

Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer
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's review
Sep 05, 11

bookshelves: romantic-mystery, police-detective, amateur-detective
Read on August 25, 2011

Recently, Sourcebooks, which represents Georgette Heyer in the US, put 46 of her romance and mystery novels on sale for $1.99 for one week to mark the 109th birthday of the author (who passed away in 1974). Her dozen mysteries begin with Footsteps in the Dark, a stand-alone "country manor mystery" published in 1932, and is very much along the lines of then fashionable authors Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham and Gladys Mitchell; she also wrote a couple of series starring Inspector Hannasyde and Inspector Hemingway. This tale might easily be called "romantic mystery" as it is decidedly written for the gentle romance mixed with a bit of harmless fun and not to leave the reader biting ones nails, breathelessly holding still, aching for the suspense to be relieved.

Peter, Celia and Margaret are siblings; with Celia's husband Charles, the foursome have inherited a run down country mansion and decide to spend a holiday there. There's no electricity but plenty of candles, draughts, fireplaces and shadows ... and, apparently, ghosts. When a human skull is heard rolling down the stairs, and the bones of its owner discovered behind a secret panel in a wall, every new creak and howl portends a new mystery … or is it just the wind? The house isn't called The Priory for nothing: an old grave yard and the ruins of long abandoned church sits attached to the property. Then there are the warnings to “get out!” issued by several villagers -- including a tourist named Michael Strange who surely isn't quite what he appears to be. And then there's a murder ....

Although frankly pretty slow to get going, once the story finds its pace, it clips along with charm and good humour. It may be rather predictable at several turns, the author dropping clues quite generously, but it is well crafted, a good example of its genre and time of publication. Easy, escapist fare, with nothing much to trouble you, the family banter and stock characters amuse as they are designed to do.

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