'Stories' in this one has a double meaning - a pun concealing an ingenious alibi gimmick, relying on certain aspects of the setting (a typical grand mansion) to mislead the reader, who, despite the array of suspicious characters, will probably spot the murderer, but remain unable to work out HOW until Sir John Appleby, rtd., solves the mystery - and all in one day, too. Despite an over-emphasis on bed-hopping, some strong language, and a sense of time-warp, this is one of the better examples of latter-day Innes, the plot being solid and well worked-out, and the characters, especially Mrs. Catmull, both well-drawn and amusing.
As this elegant story begins, an antediluvian Chief Constable, Colonel Pride (late of His British Majesty's Indian Army) is driving Sir John over to meet his neighbors at Elvedon Court. Sir John was New Scotland Yard's acknowledged authority on art-robberies, and the manor's owner has suffered a recent theft:
"'Grove nods at grove' -- Sir John Appleby quoted -- 'each alley has a brother--'
"What's that, my dear fellow?" Colonel Pride, who had drawn up his car on the Palladian bridge for a preliminary view of Elvedon Court, glanced at his companion with every appearance of perplexity.
"'And half the platform just reflects the other.'
"Ah, a bit of poetry." Pride nodded. He was seemingly gratified at having got, as he would have expressed it, right on the ball. "And I see what the chap means. All a bit formal, I agree. What another of those long-haired characters calls fearful symmetry."
The layout of Elvedon Court plays an important role in the ensuing mystery, so it behooves you to pay attention when the author is discussing its architecture.
No sooner do Colonel Pride and Sir John pull up next to the stately flight of steps leading to the manor's entrance, than they spot a police van.
Someone has murdered their host, Maurice Tytherton.
Almost everyone at Elvedon Court is a suspect, including a shifty butler and his wife, a known art thief, the late owner's mistress and her husband, a sniveling nephew with financial problems, and a prying guest who may remind you of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. Sir John insinuates himself amongst the guests and relatives of the deceased and has a splendid time smashing alibis and detecting motives. There are lots of red herrings to chase after--for instance a vicar who lurks about the distinguished grounds with a pair of binoculars--but when Sir John finally rounds up all of the suspects into the deceased's study for the grand denouement, you may be sure he will finger the actual murderer. After all, "Appleby's Other Story" is from the Golden Age of British Mystery--the genre's Age of Enlightenment, as practiced by authors such as Dorothy Sayers, Edmund Crispin, Margaret Allingham, and of course, J.I.M. Stewart a.k.a Michael Innes.
Incidentally, this book's title is a horrible bit of word-play on the solution of the mystery. I stumbled across its true meaning (shame on you, Professor Stewart!) while writing this review.