Who Pays the Piper by Dora Amy Elles

My second entry for #1940Club is a Golden Age Detective Fiction by Dora Amy Elles – also known as Patricia Wentworth.

Title: Who Pays the Piper (Ernest Lamb #2)

Author: Dora Amy Elles aka Patricia Wentworth

First published in 1940

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

Buy on Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Who Pays the Piper is the second book in Patricia Wentworth’s Ernest Lamb series.

Lucas Dale gets what he wants. He wanted a set of colorful pearls, and he purchased them. Next target, Susan Lenox. Mrs. O’Hara was widowed during the war. She also lost her twin sister and brother-in-law almost at the same time. Left behind to look after her own daughter as well as that of her twin, she moved to her brother’s house. Unknown to the two girls and Mrs. O’Hara, the brother died in debt, leaving the three women poor. Lucas came in, purchased the house from O’Hara, and gave them a small cottage near the house.

He also employed Mrs. O’Hara’s daughter Cathy as his social secretary. Susan, Mrs. O’Hara’s niece is engaged to an architect named Bill. They are going pretty strong and want to marry soon. Susan is wary of Lucas’ advances and avoids them at all costs. When the pearls are brought in, Lucas wants Susan to try them on. A couple of days later, he accuses Cathy of stealing them. He tells Susan that he wouldn’t go to the police on one condition – Susan must marry him. He gives her an hour to decide. The poor thing gives in, wanting to save her cousin from facing the gaol.

Susan calls off her engagement with Bill. Bill is furious and wants explanation. When Susan tells him of the alleged theft, Bill knows Susan was blackmailed into marrying Lucas. He tells her he’s going to kill Lucas and walks away. The vicar’s wife overhears this (last bit of) conversation. Three minutes later, Susan runs behind Bill, wanting to stop him. But it’s too late. She hears a gun shot. She meets Bill on her way. He tells her Lucas was already dead when he went into his room.

The local police are unavailable, so Scotland Yard is called in. Inspector Ernest Lamb and Detective Frank Abbott are in charge of the case. They have a suspect: Bill Carrick. But as the dup start to dig deeper, they learn many people had means, motive, and opportunity to kill Lucas – from his penniless ex-wife to a former American business partner. Surprisingly, apart from Bill and Susan, nobody heard the gun shot – not even Lucas’ employees who were present in the house at the time of murder.

When the story began and Lucas’ real intention was made clear, I couldn’t stop myself from being angry at the monster. He would go to any extent to marry Susan – even if she isn’t willing to!! Mrs. O’Hara and others are quite aware of Lucas’ feelings for Susan, and they warn her, subtly. When Susan is given no choice but to marry Lucas, Mrs. O’Hara asks her if she’s doing the right thing. But Mrs. O’Hara has no clue that her daughter was accused of theft – which she was innocent of.

Bill’s frustration and threatening to kill Lucas, which finally ends (literally minutes later) in Lucas’ murder – one is bound to think Bill killed Lucas in a fit of rage. But that’s not the case. Susan is sure of Bill’s innocence. When Lamb and Abbott arrive, they question the couple, but they keep an open mind about the other suspects.

As the story proceeds, we see various suspects and their role in the story – the American businessman who had travelled over the seas to get back the money that Lucas owed him. The ex-wife who had previously warned Cathy that Susan would suffer if she married Lucas – turns out the ex-wife was penniless and decided to blackmail Lucas for money. There’s also the victim’s secretary who seems to make the most of every opportunity.

I loved the mystery – it kept me guessing till the end. Suspects aren’t plenty but everybody seemed to have a motive for murder – again, an interesting point to look for in a murder mystery. I read this book in one sitting – it was THAT interesting and suspenseful. Having said that, at times, I did feel it was a bit too dialog-y – too many conversations with a dash of drama. I was like, for god’s sake, say what you have to and get on with it, enough with the wide eyes, trembling lips… *Who’s being dramatic now?*

If you are looking for an entertaining and suspenseful Golden Age Mystery, I recommend Who Pays the Piper by Dora Amy Elles aka Patricia Wentworth. Excellent storytelling – it’s Wentworth, duh! The mystery is sure to keep you guessing. Speaking of mystery, the killer’s identity was no shocker (although their motive wasn’t made clear previously) but the events that led to them shooting Lucas definitely was. Rage, bloody rage!!

Second opinion: Kate @ crossexaminingcrime

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7 thoughts on “Who Pays the Piper by Dora Amy Elles

    1. The victim was hated by all. To blackmail someone and coerce them to marry him – it was as if someone was waiting to kill him.
      I have a non-mystery novel planned for the club. A footman for the peacock by Rachel Ferguson. Have you read it?

  1. I didn’t know she wrote under another name, either. I haven’t read any of her books yet although we have a few – I don’t think they’re her best but the only way I’ll find out is if I actually read them.

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