The Man Who Wasn’t There (The Sally and Johnny Heldar Mysteries) by Henrietta Hamilton

‘What are you going to do this afternoon?’

England, 1950s. Sally and Johnny Heldar envisaged a quiet weekend with their infant son Peter, when a telephone call from Johnny’s cousin Tim interrupts. His fiancée, Prudence Thorpe, has broken off their engagement after becoming a suspect in the murder of her employer. Tim is sure that Prue is innocent, and seeks the help of the Heldars, accomplished amateur sleuths, to find out the truth.

Prue’s employer, Frodsham, was murdered in the home he shared with his elderly mother and his manservant. It quickly becomes apparent that a few people had both a motive to murder Frodsham as well as the opportunity. Could it have been Prue? After all, she wrote a letter on Frodsham’s behalf which could have been construed as blackmail. What about the woman with whom Frodsham was having an affair? Or that tall thin man seen in the vicinity? And what information is Frodsham’s mother withholding?

‘People who get mixed up in murder cases must expect to be bothered.’

Inspector Innes from Scotland Yard is leading the official investigation, and he and Johnny Heldar quickly discover that nothing about this murder seems straightforward. Blackmail, an affair, a mystery around Frodsham’s half-brother, and certain events during the war each need to be considered. A carefully constructed and well-written Golden Age mystery from beginning to end.

This is the second of Ms Hamilton’s Sally and Johnny Heldar Mysteries I have read, and I was delighted to read that several previously unpublished manuscripts have been discovered. ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’ is the first of these to be published, and I will eagerly await the rest.

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