One of England's most acclaimed younger mystery writers, the creator of Detective Aurelio Zen, gives us a brilliant and haunting variation on the classic drawing-room murder novel. The setting is Eventide Lodge, where the guests have gathered for tea. Colonel Weatherby is reading by the fire. Mrs. Hargreave III is whiling away her time at patience. And Miss Rosemary Travis and her friend, Dorothy, are wondering which of their housemates will be the next to die.For even as Michael Dibdin's elderly sleuths debate clues and motives, it becomes clear that Eventide Lodge is not a genteel country inn but a place of ghastly cruelties and humiliations. A place where the logic of murder is . . .almost comforting. At once affectionate homage and audacious satire, The Dying of the Light will delight any aficionado of Patricia Highsmith, Peter Dickinson, or Ruth Rendell.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
January 17, 1995
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Dying of the Light by Michael Dibdin
Before entering the lounge, Rosemary paused to check her appearance in the mirror at the foot of the stairs. It was a proper, old-fashioned, full-length looking-glass in a solid rosewood frame, not like the cheap rubbish they turned out these days. That sort of thing might be just about adequate for checking whether your hair was presentable and your seams were straight, but was worse than useless when it came to showing how you looked at a glance, whole and entire.
And that was what mattered, Rosemary reflected, surveying the results of her scrutiny with a certain modest satisfaction. Details were important, of course, but she had been brought up to believe that people were more than the sum of their parts. Anyone with enough money could acquire the trimmings, but what really counted was whether you were the right sort. There was no buying that. It was something which registered instantly, without your even being aware of it.
Everyone had their allotted role in the play of life, and the fitting thing to do was to try and look your part. Miss Rosemary Travis was pleased to see that she had been eminently successful in this respect. From her tightly waved silver-grey hair and steady hazel eyes to her sensible tweed skirt and stout rubber-soled shoes she proclaimed herself for what she was, an elderly maiden aunt whose life had been outwardly uneventful but who was no fool, and did not easily suffer those who were.
She opened the door into the lounge. The marble clock on the mantelpiece read ten past four. Tea had not yet been served, but the other guests had already gathered. Colonel Weatherby was installed in his usual chair by the fireplace, reading The Times. Some distance away the wealthy invalid Mrs Hiram Hargreaves III, swathed in pullovers and blankets, was whiling away the time with a game of patience. At a table near the French windows giving on to the lawn, Charles Symes and Grace Lebon were bent over a jigsaw puzzle, their heads almost touching. His back pointedly turned to the beauties of the landscape, Samuel Rosenstein stood muttering into the telephone in a guttural undertone. Lady Belinda Scott sat rigidly upright on the piano stool, her fingers lightly touching the keys, while in the corner Canon Purvey nodded over a book. Only George Channing, the corned beef millionaire, appeared to be missing.
Rosemary made her way towards the bay window where her friend Dorothy Davenport sat absorbed in her knitting.
'I've got it, Dot!' she announced excitedly.
'I do hope it isn't catching, dear.'
'No, I mean I've worked out who did it.'
The clacking of Dorothy's needles ceased as she turned her pale, elfin face to Rosemary.
'Why, the murder, of course!'
Dorothy looked away and completed a few more stitches.
'Which murder?' she murmured. 'There have been so many.'
'Well, only two recently,' Rosemary replied. 'And of those it's Hilary Bryant's death which has really mystified us, because it seemed that none of the guests could have killed her-although of course one of them must have.'
Dorothy Davenport gave her friend a weak smile.
'I'm sorry I keep forgetting. I think it must be my medicine.'
'I'm just as bad,' Rosemary said quickly. 'Half the time I can't even remember which day it is.'
Dorothy laid down her knitting.
'Oh, I know that. It's the day Dr Morel is to call with the results of my tests.'
She winced suddenly. Rosemary bent forward and touched her hand.
'Is it painful?'
Dorothy shook her head.
'It's not that.'
Dorothy looked at her friend.
'I'm frightened, Rose.'
'But there's no earthly need to be frightened,' she declared in a peeved tone. 'I told you, Dot, I've solved the mystery. I know who the murderer is.'
Dorothy did not seem to hear. She gazed past Rosemary at the window, where the light was starting to fade.
'They'll send me to hospital,' she said. 'I know they will. And once they've got me there, they'll keep me, with tubes and wires stuck in me, like an animal in a laboratory. I won't even be able to die, Rose. What kind of life is that, when you aren't able to die?'
'Nonsense!' cried Rosemary scornfully.
Dorothy clasped her hand.
'And you won't be there to say "Nonsense!". That's what I mind most of all, Rose. That you won't be there.'
Rosemary looked away, disconcerted by the intensity of terror in her friend's voice. Then, with a visible effort, she turned back.
'Pull yourself together, Dot!' she snapped. 'There's simply no time for this sort of silliness. We've got work to do. There's a killer on the loose, and he-or she-may strike again at any moment.'
Dorothy's gaze gradually lost its intensity. She relaxed her grip on Rosemary's hand and took up her knitting again.
'Remind me where we'd got to,' she said.
Rosemary released a long sigh.
'Like Roland Ayres, Hilary was found dead in her bed one morning,' she went on. 'Dr Morel seemed satisfied that she had died of natural causes, and in due course signed a death certificate to that effect, but we knew better.'
'The rat poison kept in the potting shed . . .'
'. . . accessible through the kitchen garden . . .'
'. . . where all the guests went at one time or another in the days preceding Hilary's death . . . '
" . . . under a variety of more or less flimsy pretexts ranging from replacing a missing croquet hoop to questioning the gardener about his begonias.'
Dorothy picked up her knitting again and began to count her stitches.
'And of course they all had a motive,' she muttered.
Rosemary gestured towards Belinda Scott, who sat gracefully fingering the keys of the piano.
'Revenge! The only man Lady Belinda ever loved was Randolph Fitzpayne, the dashing youngest son of the Earl of Devon. Hilary Bryant dallied with his affections, then broke off the engagement. In despair, Randolph became a sheep farmer in Patagonia, where he was killed in a duel by a drunken gaucho. Lady Belinda never forgave the faithless temptress who had blighted both their lives.'
She pointed to the military man poring over his newspaper.
'As for Weatherby, he was the chief beneficiary of Hilary Bryant's will, which the colonel's flattering attentions had ill-advisedly induced the former beauty to change in his favour just a few weeks before her death . . . '
Rosemary's finger swung across the room to settle on the blanket-enshrouded form of Mrs Hiram Hargreaves III.
'. . . all unbeknownst to the dead woman's sister, who was under the illusion that she would inherit in the event of her sibling's untimely death.'
Dorothy smiled happily.
'Yes, it's all coming back to me. But what about Purvey? Surely a man of religion must be above suspicion.'
Rosemary shook her head
'As one of the guests, he is by definition a potential suspect. Besides, if you remember, we decided that Purvey is in fact no clergyman but the penniless actor whom Hilary married in her youth, only to abandon him when she met Randolph Fitzpayne.'