Betty Willcock and Kenneth Strange are enjoying some stolen moments at a river bank when a man with a dog walks by them. The two young people are deeply in love and want to get married but there are financial considerations that are hindering their path and both of them are tense regarding their relationship and future. On that night however as the man (whom they have often seen taking the dog out for a walk) disappears from their view, they hear cries of alarm, the furious barking of the dog, and sounds of struggle. Alarmed, they rush to the place from where the sounds had emanated only to find the body of the dog and a man crying feebly from the river asking to be rescued. Before their horrified eyes, the strong current carries him far-away.
Kenneth duly informs the police and three days later, Superintendent Mullet and Sergeant Pugh are informed by Alice Mitchell that her husband, Frank Mitchell, is missing. Alice was away for a few days to her friends and when she returned, she didn’t find her husband at home. And yes! Frank was in the habit of taking their Scott-Terrier out for a walk. However, Alice shows no emotion at her husband’s presumed death. The only time she is shocked when it is revealed that Frank had left an insurance policy for ten thousand pounds. The only problem is that the policy is missing. Insurance assessor John Piper is asked to look into the matter by the Crescent Insurance Company. Working with the police, Piper is able to unravel the mystery surrounding the incident of the drowning which dwells deep into the hatred that can seep into the very heart of marriage.
With the stress on marriage and relationship between man and woman, the book also explores the sexual mores of Britain as the sixties began. Extra-marital affairs are looked down upon as is pre-marital intimacy with poor Betty thinking of how long can Kenneth be content with kisses and hugs. In a nice touch, the sergeant thinks of his own teenage daughter when he interviews a young woman who is into an affair with a married senior colleague and is careful not to let the tongues wag in her office which might sully her reputation.
All in all, I found this another gripping book by Carmichael. Both the mystery and the investigative procedure are good. The only thing I didn’t like was that there is no crime-reporter Quinn in it. For me the appeal of these books is not merely the mysteries but also the relationship between Piper and his friend Quinn, so the latter’s non-appearance was a disappointment.
First Line: On the night of July the ninth, Betty Willcock was not thinking of murder.
Publication Details: January 1960. London: Collins (The Crime Club), April 1960.
Series: Piper #17
Other books read of the same author: (Among others) Life Cycle