E. X. FERRARS – Frog in the Throat. Doubleday/Crime Club, US, hardcover, 1980. Bantam, US, paperback, 1981. Published earlier in the UK by Collins, hardcover, 1980.

   Although E. X. Ferrars has been writing mysteries for over forty years, she’s nowhere as well-known as she should be. One big reason I can see for that is that since her first five books, until very recently has she not used a series character of any kind. (And of Toby Dyke, who has not been heard from since 1942, I know nothing at all.)

   Where would Christie have been without Poirot or Miss Marple? Ingenious mystery plots may be totally fine in the abstract, but unfortunately they just don’t grab the reader’s attention in the bookstore.

   There is a bare chance – but don’t count on it – that Virginia Freer’s errant ex-husband Felix, who has appeared at least one time before, may return again and “solve” another case. He slips in and out of her life with such casualness that it is not a foregone conclusion that he will. Nor is his idea of finding a killer a very useful one for the police.

   Dead is a writer of historical novels, on the night of her engagement party to poet Basil Deering, who is the murderer’s next target. Or are there two murderers? A bigamous marriage some years in the past seems to be the crux of the matter, as well as some other more recent romantic entanglements, and a bit of injudicious blackmail.

   The ending is vaguely unsatisfying. Perhaps just a bit of a letdown. I think it’s because it’s clear that the police this time are perfectly capable of solving the murders by themselves, without the odd couple assistance of Mr. and Mrs. Freer.

   On the other hand, while the fuss they generate may not have been wholly necessary, it is nonetheless a fascinating and wholly absorbing sort of fuss. (And why else do we read mysteries?)

Rating: B

–Very slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 2, March/April 1981.


      The Virginia (& Felix?) Freer series –

Last Will and Testament (n.) Collins 1978.
Frog in the Throat (n.) Collins 1980.
Thinner Than Water (n.) Collins 1981.
Death of a Minor Character (n.) Collins 1983.
I Met Murder (n.) Collins 1985.
Woman Slaughter (n.) Collins 1989.
Sleep of the Unjust (n.) Collins 1990.
Beware of the Dog (n.) Collins 1992.