Title: Murder at Monk’s Barn (The Perrins, Private Investigators #1)
Author: Cecil Waye
First published on 1 January 1931; republished by DSP on 1 February 2021
Genre: Golden Age Mystery
In the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to read books by authors new to me – mostly Golden Age Detective Fiction. So far, I have read the first in two series – Tommy Hambledon by Manning Coles and Perrins, Private Investigators by Cecil Waye – and I absolutely loved the stories!
Cecil Waye was one of the most prolific authors of the GAD era. John Cecil Street wrote under the pseudonyms Cecil Waye, Miles Burton and John Bude.
The Perrins, Private Investigators consists of a sibling pair – Vivienne and Christopher Perrins. Gregory Wynter is found dead in his dressing room at Monk’s Barn, with a bullet hole to his head. The local bobby, Burden, finds the gun and a piece of twine in the shrubbery – but no footprints. Austin Wynter, the victim’s brother seeks help of the Perrins siblings.
“He saw at once that Mr. Wynter was beyond mortal aid. There was a bullet wound in the center of his forehead, and the back of his head was shattered where the bullet had come out. One side of his face was still covered with soap, and a razor lay on the floor beside him. It was quite plain to the policeman that Mr. Wynter had been shot while in the act of shaving. “
Vivienne goes to Fordington pretending to be an art student who’s commissioned to sketch vintage buildings. Vi befriends Mrs. Cartwright, a neighbor of the victim. She learns of the events leading up to the murder and further – Mr. Cartwright had heard the gun shot and alerted Burden. Meanwhile, Chris is in London, gathering information on his client and the victim.
Murder at Monk’s Barn is way different from the Golden Age Mysteries I have read so far. The best part of this book is the sleuthing pair – Chris and Vi remind you of Tommy and Tuppence; the only difference is, Chris and Vi are siblings, not a married couple. Apart from the mystery, we have an ‘unexpected’ romance – both characters play a major role in the story. The romance angle gave the story a charming touch.
Halfway through the story, it becomes pretty clear the Perrins siblings must talk to the local police – to rule out possible suspects and zero-in on the murderer. Also, the identity of the killer becomes obvious as the missing pieces of the puzzle falls into place. But, the Perrins siblings must find proof – and it is not easy, especially when one of the suspect ends up being an ‘almost’ victim.
I loved the setting and the characters. Apart from Vi and Chris, the other major characters include the Cartwrights, Mrs. Wynter, Austin Wynter and the local Superintendent. The crime occurs in a village – gossip and rumors galore. The mystery behind the murder is well-maintained throughout. The reason behind the murder is obvious but the method of murder is mind-blowing. Gregory was killed in his dressing room; the room was locked from the inside and the curtains were drawn. So how did the killer know to target at the right place (Gregory’s head)?
Murder at Monk’s Barn by Cecil Waye is an engrossing and unique mystery. If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind Golden Age Mystery, do give this book a read. You won’t be disappointed.