Welcome to another Mystery Mondays review! This week we are taking a look at a title from one of my favorite authors, Georgette Heyer. Better known for her Regency and Historical Romances, Heyer did write several mysteries during her career, with a bit of help from her husband, a barrister. He helped Heyer make sure that enoug clues were sprinkled throughout her stories so that readers might have a chance at solving the mystery. As you'll see in my review, I think he could have done a better job with Why Shoot a Butler? :-)
Title: Why Shoot a Butler?
Author: Georgette Heyer
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pub Date: April 2009, Sourcebooks
Trade paperback, 329 pages
Every family has secrets, but the Fountains' are turning deadly...
On a dark night, along a lonely country road, barrister Frank Amberley stops to help a young lady in distress and discovers a sports car with a corpse behind the wheel. The girl protests her innocence, and Amberley believes her--at least until he gets drawn into the mystery and the clues incriminating Shirley Brown begin to add up...
In an English country-house murder mystery with a twist, it's the butler who's the victim, ever clue complicates the puzzle, and the bumbling police are well-meaning but completely baffled. Fortunately, in ferreting out a desperate killer, amateur sleuth Amberley is as brilliant as he is arrogant, but this time he's not sure he wants to know the truth...
This is only the second Heyer mystery I have read and thought I enjoyed it, I'm not sure I liked it as much as Detection Unlimited. With Why Shoot a Butler? Heyer takes a different approach by having law enforcement officials that border on incompetent and an amateur who is much more talented in the sleuthing department. That particular device provides for many humorous exchanges between the officials and Amberley. Of course, I also liked the idea that instead of "the butler did it," the butler was the victim, or one of them, anyway.
Once again, Heyer's talent for witty banter and dry humor does much to make this an enjoyable read. There is also quite a bit of action, with no less than three murders and one more attempted before the ultimate culprit is found out. My biggest issue with this story was that it was not very obvious to the reader what was actually going on, and what the real mystery truly is, beyond the initial murder of the butler. I did have an inkling as to who the "bad guy" was, but no clue as to the motive. Of course, when the case is explained at the end, Heyer does manage to tie it all up neatly. As is typical with Heyer there is a romance, but unfortunately it is thrown in so suddenly towards the end that she was not able to exercise her true talents in this area. I suppose I could see it coming but it really wasn't worked into the plot as well as it could have been.
Overall, this was a quick, enjoyable read and one I think that most cozy mystery-lovers would enjoy. While I had some issues with the plot, that did not hamper my enjoyment of the story and Heyer's writing and humorous dialogues. I do wish, however, that some of the typos had been taken care of by Sourcebooks--there were two or three that were glaring and should never have made it through.
Other reviews of Why Shoot a Butler?: