A Time to Die by Hilda Lawrence

‘It was five o’clock in the afternoon and the burning August sun still registered contempt for time.’

Detective Mark East is taking a two-week holiday: one week in Bear River with Perley and Pany Wilcox, and one week in nearby Crestwood with Bessy Petty and Beulah Pond.  They had helped him on an earlier case during winter.  But now, in the heat of summer, he is feeling some regret.

As he walks down the Main Street, he sees a sign in the window of J T Spangler, Photographer:

‘THERE IS A PICTURE OF A MURDERER IN THIS WINDOW.  GUESS WHO?’

He asks Mr Spangler to remove the photograph.  Mark East thinks the photograph should be removed because it reminds people of things that should be forgotten.  Mr Spangler wanted to keep it because it helps his earnings.  The photograph is removed, but not the sign.

Mark East is then collected by his host’s son, Floyd.

That evening, they attend a Covered Dish Supper.  One of the guests is wounded by an arrow, another is missing.  Mark East really does not want to get involved in the missing person case, but when a body is discovered, he cannot walk away.

It seems clear that the murderer is one of the guests staying at a nearby hotel, but which one and why?

I really enjoyed this mystery.  Nearly every guest has a secret (or two), and Mark East must sift through those secrets to identify the murderer.  The tension builds: others may also be at risk as Detective East gets closer to the truth.   In a book peopled with interesting (and complex) characters, I did not work out who the murderer was until close to the end.

This book was first published in 1945 and is the second of three books to feature Detective Mark East.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#UncrownedQueensOfCrimeSeries