MARGARET YORKE – Cast for Death. Dr. Patrick Grant #5. Walker, US, hardcover, 1976. Bantam, US, paperback, October 1982. First published in the UK by Hutchinson, hardcover, 1976.

   Author Margaret Yorke was the author of close to 40 works of crime fiction, but only five of them seem to have been detective stories, all featuring Oxford don Patrick Grant as their leading protagonist. The rest appear to to be novels of suspense — whether romantic or psychological, I hesitate to say.

   But on the basis of this, the first of her books that I’ve read, I’d have to say that detective fiction was not among her strong points. (I’m speaking here of the traditional kind, with clues, alibis and all kinds of red herrings.)

   The general background is fine — that of the then-current Shakespearean season in the small cities and towns near Oxford. Dead, found floating in a river — presumably a suicide — is an actor who never showed up for his final performance. But as a work of detective fiction, the resulting case is a shambles. An observant man, Grant seems to have a special ability to jump to (correct) conclusions by instinct only.

   And by sheer coincidence. A dog he accidentally runs over on a highway belongs to a woman who also has just died, also assumed to be a suicide, but her life — would you believe — is somehow connected with the first one. Grant puts two and two together by noting a canister of Earl Grey tea in both their lodgings.

   More interesting is Grant’s off-and-on lukewarm romance with his long-time acquaintance Liz. He sees her on occasion only, but a chance kiss turns into a longer one than either one of them expects, and they both step back and tacitly decide not to say anything about it. But when a visiting policeman from Crete begins to show interest in Liz, feelings of what? could it be jealousy? shakes Grant to his core.

    Not that by book’s end does he do anything about it, and to the frustration of this reader, at least, this was the last book in the series. From here, though, we are allowed our imagination.

      The Patrick Grant series

1. Dead in the Morning (1970)

2. Silent Witness (1972)
3. Grave Matters (1973)
4. Mortal Remains (1974)
5. Cast for Death (1976)