R. C. ASHBY – Death on Tiptoe. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hardcover, 1930. Greyladies, UK, paperback, December 2009. No US edition.

R. C. ASHBY Death on Tiptoe

    A house party in a 12th century Norman castle in Wales is the setting, and the characters make up quite a Christie-like cast: young dissolute and irresponsible heir; portrait artist/womanizer; flirtatious heiress; pouty melodramatic young woman jilted by the artist; lovestruck governess; two bratty children; vengeful British Major; reserved and sensible barrister; failed diplomat who is an utter twit; his wife who is love with someone else; and the host and hostess, Sir Harry and Lady Undine Stacey.

   It is Lady Stacey — a transplanted French woman with pretensions to becoming a great baronial estate holder — who is the victim. The opening chapters quite brilliantly plant the seeds for her cruel murder, and there are at least four characters who outright threaten her prior to her body being discovered three weeks later in a chest in the attic where she had hid during a game of hide and seek (an entertainment for her guests).

   Cleverly done, fairly well clued, with quite a bit of misdirection. Melodramatic ending with a somewhat surprising culprit and an intriguing motive. Ashby would later expand the idea of this Gothic detective novel in He Arrived at Dusk (reviewed earlier here ), a far better book with more effective use of folklore, legends and supernatural content.