Title: Death on a Quiet Day (An Inspector Appleby Mystery)
Author: Michael Innes
First Published in 1957; reprint by Agora Books on 9th May 2019
Genre: Crime and Mystery
After a night filled with adventures – a game of chicken with his peers, David Henchman decides to go on a hike across Dartmoor. He sees smoke in a distance and walks towards it. As he scales the rocks, he finds a man dead – a gunshot wound to his forehead and a pistol clenched in his hand. David looks around, searching for someone, anyone passing by so that he can call for help. He sees a man walking far away and shouts for help. The man sees the body and suggests that the man might have committed suicide. The two then discuss who would walk to the nearest police station and David turns his back for a minute only to find the man pointing the pistol at him.
Then starts the chase of a lifetime. The killer calls in his accomplice and together they hunt for David high and low. Through the bushes of heather and rocks, David is chased by the duo. He comes across a lonely road and sees a car parked. A young girl is busy gorging on sandwiches. She asks him if he needs any help and David says no as he doesn’t want to involve the pretty girl in some nasty business.
But the girl doesn’t take a no for an answer and David asks her to drop him to the nearest town. But the car gives up and David runs for his life as he sees the two men approaching the car. After running for a certain distance, David sees the car again and thinks that the girl finally managed to start the car and is here to rescue him. But alas! The two rogues are now in the car and the girl is nowhere to be seen. After an adventurous cat-and-mouse chase, David finally feels safe, now that his pursuers are nowhere to be seen. But is this just an illusion? Will they strike back? Will Sir John Appleby be able to save David Henchman from the rogues before it is too late?
This stranger did mean murder – a second murder – and not consultation or parley. But this gun was a miserable affair, not fit for much more than crime passionel in a boudoir.
This is the first Inspector Appleby Mystery I read and I absolutely loved it. I haven’t come across a story that has such a spectacular and nail-biting beginning. It just doesn’t end there. Until the end, the reader is in for a whole lot of twists and turns and surprises. A totally entertaining and mind-blowing story this!
For the first half of the book, I was literally sitting on the edge of my chair. What started as a normal day and a normal hike for David turned out to be a day (and night) full of adventures and close brush (or brushes in this case as he was chased multiple times) with death. Oh my! The chase! Just when the reader is given a hope that the killers are no longer chasing David, Bam! The car gives up and David runs again. He finds a place to hide (pineapple nectar place) but no, the rogues are there too. He jumps onto the hay bales on a tractor, nope, not safe there either!
Detective Investigation, like philosophy in the University of Oxford, has an empyrean, it’s speculative inane. Scramble up to that empyrean in the present case, Henchman, and you have to admit that your friend may have been killing two birds with one stone.
Sir John Appleby, a detective at Scotland Yard is famous for solving crimes. What made him help David? A tiny detail that almost any layman would have missed – no spoilers here! There are many supporting characters in the story – David’s peers are a rowdy lot but as the story proceeds, they are quite enthusiastic in helping Appleby.
The chase doesn’t end with the appearance of Appleby. Nope, it doesn’t! The chase continues, until the very end! And it’s not just the chase, there’s murder, blackmail, missing person and whatnot – a complete package of everything crime, mystery and spice!
David wondered why – and then realized that there was perhaps something funny in the notion of a young man indulging this delicate sentiment while bolting for his life.
I really love mysteries that have the essence of a quirk in them. David is running for his life and at some point he thinks the rogues have stopped chasing him as it is tea time and they are probably sitting somewhere, sipping tea! When he sees the girl in the car for the first time, he’s mesmerized by her beauty. He takes time to have a good look at her – her tanned skin, her pretty frock… All this when the two men are right behind with their gun(s) pointed at him!
I am in awe of Michael Innes’ writing. The storytelling is absolutely brilliant and entertaining. The plot to story development and character portrayal is magnificent. The ending is, again, full of twists and surprises. The identity of the rogues – unexpected. If I have to sum it up in two words then I would say Literary Indulgence!
The trees grew thicker and seemed to stretch interminably ahead. And then, suddenly there was a gap, with a plain iron gate, and beyond it a straight drive that ran directly to the house across a broad expanse of turf bathed in moonlight.
As I said before, this is the first Appleby mysteries that I read and I am looking forward to reading more of it. In fact, I am going to start with the first book in the series sometime soon – Death at the President’s Lodgings. There are some books that capture your interest from the first page, don’t they? Death on a Quiet Day by Michael Innes was one such book for me. So, do I recommend this book? YES, YES, YES. Would anyone want to miss reading an entertaining, spectacular and magnificent story as this? I don’t think so!
Many thanks to Agora Books and NetGalley for the review copy.