Sat 29 Aug 2009
MICHAEL INNES – Death by Water.
Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1968. Paperback reprints include: Berkley, 1969; Perennial, 1991. UK title: Appleby at Allington: Victor Gollancz, hc, 1968.
Michael Innes, from whom I have come to expect great things, did not enchant me with a recent non-series mystery, Money from Holme. But Sir John Appleby returns in the present book, and the Innes magic is still operating.
Sir John seems to have retired to the country from Scotland Yard, and should be (as he recalls) “engaged in moving decently from bedtime to bedtime, from lunch to dinner.” One of these dinners is as a guest of Owain Allington, who has put some recently obtained wealth to the task of reacquiring the ancestral mansion.
The evening sees the discovery of the first of a series of bodies, all apparently accidentally deceased. Appleby, against his own inclinations and contrary to his own reasoning, finds himself drawn into the affair and smelling an unpleasant odor therein, and after a false start or two tracks the problem to its solution.
Death by Water is peopled with some wonderful comic characters, and others not so comic. Innes clearly enjoys playing with words, and fortunately his enjoyment is richly shared by the reader.
Do try Death by Water — it’s a pleasure.