Like Cecil Freeman Gregg whom I read recently, Francis Grierson is another prolific writer who is virtually unknown today. Here is an informative post on him: https://tellersofweirdtales.blogspot.com/2013/11/francis-d-grierson-1888-1972.html
Grierson’s series character, Superintendent George Muir is at the Ministry of Estimates and Social Service (MESS) when the novel opens. He is there to investigate the leaks that the Minister fears has led to financial speculation and profit. As Muir is getting the facts from the Minister Sir Thomas Barny, the Controller Mr. Horatio Primble, and the Director Roger Aboyne, a woman’s high-pitched scream interrupts the meeting:
“What the devil was that?” Sir Thomas demanded.
“Hysterics, probably,” Mr. Primble opined sourly: he had never approved of the admission of women to Government service.
Realising it is not hysterics, the four men rush outside to find a woman sobbing wildly and gesticulating at a partially open door:
“He’s dead,” she whimpered. “In there. Someone must have killed him. It- it couldn’t have been the cat.”
With these enigmatic words, begins the investigation into the murder of the Assistant Controller, Oscar Troon.
George Muir is a likeable hero who is good to his men. It was also nice to read about his loving relationship with his wife, Gloria. The mystery too was okay and I liked it though the author devotes a little too much time to describing food and drinks and general silly talk. That was entertaining at first but soon the description of dishes and drinks became repetitive and the frivolous talk started getting on my nerves. Had the author cut all that out, it’d have shortened the book and made it more interesting. And if I hear about one more restaurant in London that was known for its exclusivity and where one could hardly get a table but where the hero and his wife were always welcome, I’ll scream! Was dining out such a status symbol during the thirties and the forties?
First Line: “In plain words, Mr. Muir,” concluded Sir Thomas Barly, Minister of Estimates and Social Service, “the position is so serious that if the leakage of information is not stopped this Ministry may as well close its doors.”
Publication Details: London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1944
First published: 1944