MARGUERITE SILVERMAN – The Vet It Was That Died. Nicholson & Watson; UK hardcover. First edition: 1945. No US edition.

   Of the three mystery novels written by this author, this one is the most common among those found offered for sale online: there are six copies available at the time I am writing this. Of Silverman’s second (Who Should Have Died?, Nicholson, 1948) there are none, and of her third (9 Had No Alibi, Nicholson, 1951) there is but one.

   According to Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV, the primary detective in each is Chief Inspector Christopher Adrian. Coming to his assistance in this one, at least, a relatively minor affair, is a newly graduated veterinarian surgeon by the name of Helena Goodwin.

    Helena’s involvement with the mystery is due only to this, her first job, however, and in fact she’s one of those immediately on the scene when her body of her veterinarian employer is found. (Hence the title.) And yet, even though both the inspector and his wife are old friends of her family, it doesn’t seem as though there?s enough of a connection there to warrant her presence in any of Adrian?s other cases. I could be wrong. It will also be difficult to find out, but if and when I do, I will be sure to tell you.

    It comes as no surprise that “the vet it was that died,” as both Mr. Thorpe and his wife are two of the most terrifically unlikable people that one can imagine. They are hated by their niece Carol, who lives with them; Dora, the other girl who works for them; their neighbors, and even their clientele, believe it or not. That the couple were not especially fond of each other is also an understatement, to put it mildly. When Mr. Thorpe is found poisoned to death, what Adrian and Helena quickly realize is that they have a lengthy list of suspects to work with. There is no need at all to start looking under rocks or for tramps passing by.

    By page 92, however, the list has been narrowed down to five: the only ones who had access to the brandy to which the strychnine was added, but with 100 pages yet to go, it takes quite a bit of time (and false leads) to whittle the list down any further.

    I called this mystery a “minor affair” a short while back, and truthfully that is all it is. The dialogue on occasion is rather juvenile in tone, and on other occasions one gets the unsettling feeling that the author is making up facts as she is going along. Neither of these are necessarily fatal flaws, mind you, but neither of them allows for much in the way of recommendation, either.

— October 2006