The Elusive Aunt: Always Say Die by Elizabeth Ferrars (1956)

The trouble was that the relationship went back so far and was woven so deeply into both their lives that she did not really believe that it would ever be possible to escape from it entirely.

During the blitz, scholarly Laurence Delborne asked his housekeeper Violet Gamlen to bring her niece, Helen, to the relative safety of the countryside. At the same time, he asked his grandnephew, Martin Andras to be sent over to his home at Burnstone too. The two children grew close during the war years and their friendship was renewed during their college days when Martin was studying architecture and Helen, arts. Meanwhile, Mr. Delborne passed away and left his home, Shipley’s End, and a considerable fortune to Violet. After Violet’s death, however, the home is to pass on to Myra Andras, the widowed mother of Martin. Things are progressing smoothly till Violet goes to a seaside resort and returns with a husband in tow, Elvin Colliver.

Three years after a bitter break-up, Helen finds Martin at her doorsteps. It seems a couple in the village has written to Myra that Violet Colliver hasn’t been seen for almost a year and Shipley’s End is falling into ruin. Martin went to the village and met Colliver and his sister, Mignon, who told him that Violet is safe and fine but refused to give her address. Martin fears the worst since the garden is so overgrown now that he suspects anybody could have buried a body in there. Helen is not convinced. She had just received a postcard from her aunt the previous month but the next weekend, she too makes her way to Burnstone. She is welcomed warmly by Colliver who provides her with the address of the holiday home that Violet is staying in and Helen is able to visit her aunt who however refuses to divulge why she has been staying in holiday homes rather than at home. She also seems lonely and asks Helen to visit her the next week but when Helen does so, Violet has left the place. Helen who has formed certain conclusions informs Martin. From then on, Martin and Helen go searching for the elusive Violet. Added to the mix is Nicholas Dreydel who is looking for two missing women and fears that Violet Colliver would soon join that list. There is also Harold Hovard whose interest in Myra is more than Martin can bear. Mignon with her spooks, cats, and pet snakes also adds to the confusion. So what’s really happening?

This wasn’t as impressive as my previous read of Ferrars: The Lying Voices but was interesting enough.

*

First Line: In the dim light of the staircase Helen Gamlen did not recognise the man standing on the half-landing below her.

Publication Details: 1956. London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1956.

Dedicated to: Jo and Adrian with love

Alternate Title: We Haven’t Seen Her Lately

Pages: 192

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