At illustrious Spey Public School loathed teacher Gerald Conway is murdered. Suspects abound, not just amongst the staff. All (except the culprit) are indebted to Mrs. Bradley for her help.
For the most part, this novel delights. Sparkling dialogue is a particular feature - be it youngsters surmising and engaged in squabbles or adults vague, artless and pedantically at variance. To add to the interest, blind Lecky Harries, a reputed witch, lives nearby - unashamedly hamming it up for visitors.
Throughout, Gladys Mitchell mischievously pokes fun at an enclosed community with its own way of life. (Mrs. Bradley is informed all boys take Divinity, but the Army Class "the Old Testament only, of course".) Contributions from pupils Scrupe, Issacher and Prince Takhobali enrich (the latter's nickname a reminder of how attitudes have since changed).
The investigation unconvincingly (but entertainingly) stretches over many weeks, allowing a range of school activities to be described. The book's title may be weak, but its characters are not - especially, of course, Mrs. Bradley - she descended from a witch and witchlike herself, causing people to recoil whenever she cackles (which she is often). Mercifully she has here stopped calling everybody "child" - curiously with the term more appropriate in these surroundings than in other novels.
Roman bath, grotesque masks, secrets, undercurrents - I enjoyed it all immensely. And, goodness, was that a touch of real magic at the end!