Hare Sitting Up (Sir John Appleby #18) by Michael Innes

‘I am a policeman. My name is Appleby.’

At the height of the Cold War, Professor Howard Juniper disappears. He has not been seen for three days.  Professor Juniper has been researching and developing defences against bacteriological warfare and the British government is concerned. He has been working under considerable pressure: has he been kidnapped; has he been driven mad or has he defected? In the wrong hands, his work could destroy humanity.

Sir John Appleby, head of Scotland Yard, has been asked by the Prime Minister to investigate. Sir John enlists the help of Miles Juniper, Howard’s identical twin brother. Miles, the headmaster of a boys school, is asked to impersonate Howard for a few days to buy time for Sir John to investigate.

The investigation takes Sir John from the private boys’ school of Splaine Croft to the crumbling estate of Lord Ailsworth, and on to remote Ardray Island. Lord Ailsworth may be eccentric, but he gives Sir John an important clue. Can he find Howard Juniper? And then Miles Juniper goes missing…

‘Lord Ailsworth and his Donkey Ducks suggest a sort of challenge, wouldn’t you say?’

This book was first published in 1959, and while this particular cold war might be behind us, the current COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of just how vulnerable humanity is to virulent viruses as well as to other biological agents.

I enjoyed this novel, which had a couple of twists to keep me guessing.

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