Allen J. Hubin

ROBERT BARNARD – At Death’s Door. Scribner’s, US, hardcover, 1988. Paperback reprint: Dell, 1989. British edition: Collins Crime Club, hardcover, 1988.


   I do think Robert Barnard goes from strength to strength, though I’m not sure how he does it with his prolificity: At Death’s Door was his second novel published here this past year [1988].

   His character probings are becoming more subtle, but his people, full of all their weaknesses and strengths, their humanities, leap off the pages in sharpest individuality.

   In this one they are the family, legitimate and otherwise, of Benedict Cotterel, famous writer and rake, now octogenarian and senile. His daughter Cordelia, produced by the now renowned actress and once mistress Myra Mason, has decided to write a book about her mother — whom she loathes– and Ben.

   She comes to the home of Roderick and Cordelia Cotterel — Roderick being one of two offsrping by an early Cotterel marriage — where Benedict is vegetating. Myra, hearing of the book project, comes furiously to the little British village with her latest bedmate in tow, determined to stop Cordelia in her tracks.

   Into this comes murder, and Inspector Meredith (whom I’ve a notion Barnard has served us before) does some fancy footwork to identify the guilty. Barnard’s plotting is elegant as well, and he has yet one more surprise at the end for us.


— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 1989.

Bibliographic Note:  Inspector Idwal Meredith did indeed appear in another Barnard mystery: Unruly Son (Collins, 1978; US title: Death of a Mystery Writer. Scribner, 1979).