by Marv Lachman

CYRIL HARE – Tenant for Death. Faber & Faber, UK, hardcover, 1937. Dodd Mead, US, hardcover, 1937. Softcover editions include: Dover, 1981; Perennial Library, 1982.

   Even better [than Francis Beeding’s Death Walks in Eastrepps, reviewed here ] is Cyril Hare’s first mystery, Tenant for Death. Hare generates the kind of intellectual excitement that used to be present in so many mysteries. The facts are presented to the reader and, if the puzzle is not as complex as Ellery Queen in his heyday, there is still much for the reader who wishes to compete with the detective.

   Hare’s sleuth is Inspector Mallett who, after appearing in Hare’s first three books, began playing second fiddle to the author’s later detective, Francis Pettigrew. Mallett is a detective we can respect and identify with. I can visualize a subdued Leo McKern (of Rumpole fame) playing him on the screen.

   There is humor in Tenant for Death, and it is reasonably subtle. Hare has a good ear for language and introduces (and demolishes) a few pompous individuals. There is not a great deal of description, and that is good because too much tends to slow a mystery down. There is just enough for the reader to supply his own imagination and set his own scenes.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1981.