Murder Has a Motive by Francis DuncanMurder has a Motive by Francis Duncan
Series: Mordecai Tremaine #1
Published by Vintage Digital on August 25, 2016 (first published 1947)
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
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When Mordecai Tremaine emerges from the train station, murder is the last thing on his mind. But then again, he has never been able to resist anything in the nature of a mystery – and a mystery is precisely what awaits him in the village of Dalmering.

Rehearsals for the local amateur dramatic production are in full swing – but as Mordecai discovers all too soon, the real tragedy is unfolding offstage. The star of the show has been found dead, and the spotlight is soon on Mordecai, whose reputation in the field of crime-solving precedes him.

With a murderer waiting in the wings, it’s up to Mordecai to derail the killer’s performance…before it’s curtains for another victim.

I admit it – I love vintage mysteries. In spite of the predictability, in spite of the stereotypes, I truly enjoy them. They’re a little like stepping back in time.

Murder Has a Motive was originally published in the late 1940s, a great time for mysteries. Mordecai Tremaine is a retired tobacconist with a penchant for mysteries. He had been planning on staying with friends in Dalmering, but as we all know, murder follows amateur detectives around. When Mordecai arrives, his friends tell him that one of their neighbors, a woman who was also starring in the play the community is putting on to raise money for charity, was found dead that morning – stabbed to death. His friends, of course, want him to find the killer.

Mordecai is a quiet, sometimes pretentious man, but a romantic at heart. He’s a quiet detective, watching, listening, having conversations. He’s a little different from the other bachelor detectives of the era. He unabashedly reads trashy romance and has a weak spot for pretty women and the thought of young love being obstructed can bring him close to tears.

As far as the mystery goes, we have a nice size suspect pool, not too many to keep track of, but several people with reasonable motives. Of course, the reader is too smart to fall for the most obvious, seemingly most violent suspect and the clues are there, but I really appreciated the thought that went into the murder(s). We even have the requisite denouement, with all the suspects seated around the table as Mordecai lays out what happened with the police nearby to make the arrest.

About Francis Duncan

Francis Duncan

Francis Duncan (1918-1988) is the pseudonym for William Underhill. Underhill  lived virtually all his life in Bristol. Writing was always important to him and very early on he published articles in newspapers and magazines. His first detective story was published in 1936.

Although a conscientious objector, he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War II, landing in France shortly after D-Day. After the war he trained as a teacher and spent the rest of his life in education, first as a primary school teacher and then as a lecturer in a college of further education.

Throughout much of this time he continued to write detective fiction from ‘sheer inner necessity’, but also to supplement a modest income.


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