Annie Haynes has moved from obscurity to every work in print so quickly that I hardly knew what to read first:
- Should I continue to read the Inspector Stoddart books?
- Should I introduce myself to Inspector Furnivall?
- Or should I read one of her stand-alone novels?
I dithered for a while but in the end I had to pick up The Bungalow Mystery, the first of those stand-alone books, because I loved the title, I loved the sound of the story, and because it was the first – I am told – the most obscure of all of Annie Haynes’ twelve novels.
It proved to be a wonderfully entertaining mixture of sensation novel and golden age murder mystery.
It was far from perfectly executed – it had extraordinary coincidences, ridiculous scenarios, and significant plot holes – but the story rolled forward with conviction, the writing was engaging, and so I had a lovely time reading.
The murder came at the very start of the story.
Dr Roger Lavington was new to his small town medical practice when he answered an urgent summons from the housekeeper of the reclusive neighbour he had never met. He found that Maximilian Von Rheinhart had been shot dead; and he sent the housekeeper to fetch the police while he waited with the body.
As he waited he sensed that he was not alone; and he wasn’t. He found a terrified young woman hiding behind the curtains. Thinking of his dead mother and sister – and not thinking of what she might have done or of the consequences of what he was doing – he agreed to her plea to be allowed to escape and sent her to hide in his house while he dealt with the police.
Dr Lavington’s next problem was how to explain the presence of his houseguest. He presented her to his housekeeper as his cousin, who had been going to visit before going abroad, who had called off her visit, but who had found that she had time and couldn’t leave without seeing her cousin.
The young woman played the part with aplomb – she made quite an impression – before suddenly disappearing ‘with friends’.
The next day a woman fitting her description, and papers connecting her to Rheinhart, was among the fatalities in a train crash. The police believed that explained the evidence of the presence of a woman at the scene; and Dr Lavington sadly concluded that his involvement with the murder case was over.
He was wrong.
Two years later Dr. Lavington, who had decided that the life of a small town doctor was not for him, was a resident medical supervisor for his friend Sir James Courtenay, who had lost his legs in that train crash. Since then Courtenay has refused to see his fiancée, Daphne Luxmore, breaking her heart and leading her to become a recluse. Daphne had a sister, Elizabeth, and when Dr. Lavington met her he was struck by her resemblance to the young woman he had helped.
He fell in love with her. That made his life – and his relationship with his employer – rather complicated.
Meanwhile, the police had found new evidence and had reopened the murder case.
Dr. Lavington found that he had been a suspect all along ….
The mystery – and a contrivance or two – kept the story rolling along nicely.
There was an arrest.
There was a trial.
But that might not be the end ….
Following Dr. Lavington through the story was interesting; giving a different perspective on a murder mystery. He didn’t want his subterfuge to be discovered, but he did want a resolution. It was frustrating, but I understood why, once he had made that first fateful decision. he acted as he did.
There were many familiar elements in this story – particularly towards the end – but I can’t remember coming across them put together as they were in this book before.
It works – in spite of its failings – which I can’t explain without spoiling the plot – because I could understand the motivations and the actions of every character I met; and because Annie Haynes had a way of telling her stories that was so very engaging.
Now I have to work out which of them to read next ….