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Top mysteries challenge: Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare

Year of publication: 1942
Series and no.: Detective Inspector Mallett #4
Genre: Mystery
Type of mystery: Threats, murder
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: England, 1939-1940

A slightly drunk High Court judge hits a man with his car and thus starts a series of events that end in murder.

As a mystery this story should satisfy any reader who enjoys legal mysteries. It is full of twists and red herrings and it's a challenge to keep up with the detective.

The character descriptions and development are skilful and the interactions between the characters are complex enough to satisfy anyone’s demands for realism. There is a subtle, slightly mocking tone running through the whole narrative, so that one is constantly on the alert for a punch-line to crop up, but it never does.

The writing is polished and knowing that Hare was personally acquainted with the legal environment the story depicts, having been a barrister and worked as a judge's marshal on the circuit court, one knows that the descriptions of the legal proceedings and the points of law important for the plot must be accurate.

So far, so good, but the text could have done with some paring down. It is never a good sign when I start yearning for a book to be finished for reasons other than wanting desperately to know how it ends, and in this case it was a matter of wordiness and repetition that grated on my reading nerves and made me wish I was finished reading the book. For that reason I can only give it 3+ stars, and not the 4+ I might have given it had it been more streamlined.

Books left in challenge: 81

Place on the list(s): CWA #85
Awards and nominations: None I am aware of


For some reason, vintage mysteries have caught my fancy. Thanks for this review because it turned me on to a new source for me.
Bibliophile said…
Glad to have been of help. You should try reading An English Murder, which also turns on an obscure point of law. I liked that one so much that I gave it a full 5 stars:

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