In at the Death by Francis DuncanIn at the Death by Francis Duncan
Series: Mordecai Tremaine #4
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on October 2, 2018 (first published 1952)
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
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Mordecai Tremaine and Chief Inspector Jonathan Boyce are never pleased to have a promising game of chess interrupted – though when murder is the disrupting force, they are persuaded to make an exception.

A quick stop at Scotland Yard to collect any detective’s most trusted piece of equipment – the murder bag – the pair are spirited to Paddington Station to catch the train to the sleepy town of Bridgton.

No sooner have they arrived than it becomes clear that the town harbours more than its fair share of passions and motives…and one question echoes loudly throughout the cobbled streets: why did Dr Hardene, the local GP of impeccable reputation, bring a revolver with him on a routine visit to a patient?

Mordecai Tremaine’s latest excursion into crime detection leaves him in doubt that, when it comes to murder, nothing can be assumed...

I’ve been reading a lot of vintage mysteries lately, Hercule Poirot, Roderick Alleyn, Sherlock Holmes. Mordecai Tremaine is one of the lesser-known detectives of the era, at least now, I’m not sure about when the stories were originally published. I like him though; I’m glad the books are being reissued. Mordecai is a retired tobacconist, a bachelor, and a bit of a romantic. He’s an amateur detective who solves mysteries by observing, by understanding people. He also blends in well, he’s unobtrusive and people tend not to notice him or not be threatened by him, which allows him to sometimes learn things quicker and easier than the police.

In In at the Death, Mordecai is actually invited by his friend Chief Inspector Jonathan Boyce to tag along on an investigation, beginning to end. Mordecai can be rather introspective too. “It was when you came up against the thing in its actuality that its atmosphere changed; from being a fascinating problem to intrigue the brain, it turned into a dreadful darkness in which your mind was squeezed in a dry, numbing horror.”

The dead man was a fairly successful doctor who is found dead at an empty house. Boyce and Mordecai work together well to solve the mystery. Mordecai does not consider the detective stupid and the detective for the most part respects Mordecai’s contributions, which makes it a little different from so many of the amateur detective series.

The plot is good, with several suspects and enough clues that you can see how the detectives came to the right conclusion. It wasn’t my favorite of the series, but still a fun read.

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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