LIONEL BLACK – The Eve of the Wedding. Avon, paperback, 1st US printing, December 1981. First published in the UK by Collins, hardcover, 1980.

   This is the sixth of seven recorded cases solved by British newspaperwoman Kate Theobald, and the first of them that I’ve read. I’ve always thought that she and her barrister husband Henry were a Mr & Mrs detective duo, but Al Hubin lists only her as a series character, and not him in Crime Fiction IV. Inspector Bill Comfort is mentioned there as an occasional sleuthing partner, as he is for this one, but I’d say that that’s stretching it, as while the police are at hand, Comfort is offstage for most of the book.

   But Henry is a key character in this one, in a secondary role, true, but if it were me, I’d still say this is a married couple detective team. Dead is the brother of the groom during a party the night before he is to marry the daughter of the American half of a business partnership that split a generation or so ago.

   There are plenty of motives, not all of them all that savory. It seems that the dead man raped the bride-to-be during the party. He was also the one who stood in the way of the proposed re-merger of the two companies, US and UK. There is also a poltergeist at hand, making a nuisance of itself. Could it have thrown the dagger into the dead man’s neck. Henry thinks the idea is hogwash.

   There are several generations of family living in the huge mansion, and most of them do not get along, and I mean seriously. There is a completely dotty uncle and aunt, a pair of aged married servants who will do anything for their master, the patriarch of the family, but in one way or another, they were all cowed by the dead man, not a nice person at all.

   Black’s style is engagingly readable, but with a list of possible suspects like this, I’d have liked to have seen more actual detection. Having our detectives solve the case largely by overhearing and listening to secret conversations going on over the course of one long, long evening is not my idea of real detective work.

      The Kate Theobald series —

Swinging Murder. 1969.
Death Has Green Fingers. 1971.
Death by Hoax. 1974.

A Healthy Way to Die. 1976.
The Penny Murders. 1979.
The Eve of the Wedding. 1980.
The Rumanian Circle. 1981.