Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Vicious Circle: Review

Vicious Circle is the 18th book in Douglas Clark's Masters & Green mystery series. But the book (and series) is about more than just Chief Superintendent Masters and Chief Inspector Green--Masters of the Yard is called in along with his special team of investigators whenever there is an odd or delicate case to be detected. This outing proves to be very delicate indeed--because nearly everyone who might be officially involved in the investigation locally (from the Chief Superintendent to the doctor to the coroner) is either directly related to the victim or related to anyone who might come under suspicion should the case prove to be murder. And it very well might...

Mrs. Carlow is an irritable, manipulative old woman who makes life difficult and uncomfortable all of her family. When she doesn't get her way or feels slighted or just because she wants to show who's in charge, she takes an extra dose or two of her heart medicine...or stops taking it altogether. When her granddaughter invites her and her avowed enemy Joseph Kisiel to the family Christmas dinner, Mrs. Carlow downs enough digitalis to make herself thoroughly sick, thus making her doctor (and her granddaughter's father-in-law) late for the meal. To prevent such a thing from happening again, Dr. Whincap arranges for her medicine to be kept from her and only administered in the prescribed daily dose by her daughter, granddaughter, or a nurse. 

Thwarted in that bid for attention, she next takes it into her head that her granddaughter and her husband must allow her to move into their home. When told they can't possibly take her in because the remodeling they've been doing hasn't extended beyond one finished bedroom, she hires a carpenter to show up to finish the rest of the house. He's promptly sent away and before Mrs. Carlow can make another move in her little chess game of irritation she becomes violently ill and dies, apparently from an overdose of digitalis. Enter Masters, Green, and team. Their job is to discover whether the elderly lady managed to squirrel away enough digitalis to have killed herself (whether accidentally or not) or if someone else decided to remove the irritating old woman. It is a difficult job made even more difficult by the fact that several of their local official contacts are also possible suspects.

Clark has given us another satisfying police procedural. It is fairly clued--enough so that I got to the solution well before Masters this time, mainly because I had some prior knowledge (I can't tell you what kind...that would spoil things.). These novels sometimes hang on some fairly technical knowledge of poisons or whatnot and I am proud of myself that I knew the little secret to this one. Not that the technical knowledge is absolutely necessary to get to the solution--you may not know precisely how the deed was accomplished, but there are plenty of clues to point the way to whodunnit. I thoroughly enjoy the relationships among Masters and Green and their supporting team members. There's a lot of give and take and good-humored leg-pulling to go along with the investigation to make for an enjoyable read all round.  3.75 stars.

This fulfills the "Detective Team" square on the Vintage Silver Bingo Card

 





Challenges fulfilled: Vintage Mystery Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, Bookish TBR, Outdo Yourself, Men in Uniform, How Many Books, My Kind of Mystery, 100 Plus Challenge, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, A-Z Reading Challenge, Book Monopoly, Book Bingo

4 comments:

John said...

Intriguing review. Not sure I've heard of this writer or his sleuthing team. I may have to check him out when I head into the Silver Age portion of this two part challenge.

But I have to ask about the book cover -- What's with the circle on the old woman's dress? Is that supposed to be indicative of a clue? Or is that some error in the printing of the cover?

Tony Renner said...

18 novels and still I've never heard of 'em! So many books....

fredamans said...

After 18 novels I am surprised they are still so good. I wonder how many more are there? Fantastic review!

Bev Hankins said...

Lol, John, can you believe that I didn't even notice the circle on the woman? And I own this precise copy. I have NO idea what that's about. And, no, I can't think of any way whatsoever that it could be construed as a clue. And, finally, I Can't Believe It!! You haven't heard of these?? (Where were you on my other reviews, my friend? Tsk Tsk. :-) ) I'm not sure that this counts as stumping the panel, though. I think I can only claim that if find a true Golden Age author that you haven't heard of....