The tenth mystery involving Captain Heimrich, "Let Dead Enough Alone" by Richard and Frances Lockridge, and originally from 1955, starts off with John and Margaret Halley off to a winter weekend party at their New York country lakeside cottage. Actually, the party was Margaret's idea, as John is a reluctant attendee.
The party will have ten attendees, including two servants. Then after a night of snow, and after which the attendees meet and entertain each other, John ends up in the drink. There is panic, and after the police are called, it is Trooper Tom Crawley that initially shows up to investigate John's death. Thinking something suspicious, he calls in Captain M. L. Heimrich, who was on a hot date that night. After Heinrich, and his Watson, Sergeant Forniss show up, and after the CSI stuff is done and the John's body is removed, everybody from the party, and Heimrich, Forniss and Crawley are snowed in with no way to get to civilization. Taking full advantage of this, Heimrich begins his investigation into John Halley's death in earnest.
Despite the fact that this being an extremely short novel, and that I read the large-print edition, this is a novel that just meanders endlessly. We get conversations that wander endlessly into nothing, details about nothing interesting, uninteresting characters that don't have enough substance to be tissue-paper, and to pad up their assigned word count, the Lockridge's repeat character's has their full name repeated endlessly in full.
Since this is Heimrich's tenth adventure, and since he is the lead investigator, I expected more than an unexciting, mundane, and generic taciturn man who seems to have few motivations for doing anything, and who seems to exist merely to propel the plot forward.
However, despite him being the star of this series, he's not the main character of this novel. The lead character of "Let Dead Enough Alone" is actually Lynn Ross; she's a self-confessed ignoramus of nearly everything. The Lockridges use Lynn's character's ignorance as an excuse to constantly have EVERYTHING that is happening in the novel, and the murder investigation, explained to us, the audience. Lynn is also an extremely fragile character, as she's a one-time patient of psychologist Dr. Margaret Halley, and while we get to see her fragile personality gradually breakdown, somewhat, and become more befuddled than usual under the stress of the investigation, we never find out what brought on her initial breakdown or psychological problems. And so while Heimrich plays cat and mouse with the suspects, Lynn constantly has to have everything explained to her, as things would be explained to a backwards child, and us, as Lynn is the Lockridge's proxy to us, their audience.
I have to say that the novel picks up some speed after the second half, and after the second murder, and I found the ending in which the murder investigation is solved fairly entertaining. It's also interesting to read about a murder investigation that is happening to a drab bunch of isolated people during the winter of 1955, in which none of the modern technology that we take for granted exists. It's even interesting to check off the cumulating fifties conventions and clichés as we are treated to the constant drinking of cocktails, the chain-smoking, the sexual insinuations, the smoking in bed and we are even treated to a woman creeping through the house in her nightclothes using a candle for lamination during a black-out. The fifties prudishness is even brought up as there is a casual mention of the Halley's sleeping arrangements is made, informing us that the married couple seem to be sleeping in separate beds.
Yet despite this novel picking up some steam as the novel enters its second half, this is still a novel that is, as I've said, an overlong and overwritten relic that just meanders, and which failed to hold my interest for long periods of time.
A timekiller to be sure, and the Lockridges haven't, with this novel, convinced me to read anymore of their fiction. I'll round up to three stars, although, if I could, this novel would only get two and a half stars for its sheer averageness. If you're looking for lost gems in the mystery field, you're just going to have to look elsewhere.
For this site, I have also reviewed the following mysteries:
Come Out, Come Out by George Malcolm-Smith.
The Drifter's Wheel by Phillip DePoy.
The Last to Remember by Joyce Lavene & Jim Lavene.
Limbo Connection, The by Derry Quinn.
Lock 14 (Inspector Maigret Mysteries) by George Simenon.
Mrs. Bradley #18: The Rising of the Moon (Virago Modern Classics) by Gladys Mitchell.
Mrs. Bradley #46: Winking At the Brim - Large Print by Gladys Mitchell.
Mrs. Bradley #48: Late, Late in the Evening by Gladys Mitchell.
Fleming Stone #45: Murder in the Bookshop by Carolyn Wells.
Reader's Digest: Great Stories of Mystery and Suspense: Volume #1.
What did I do tomorrow? by L. P. Davies.