Murder by Matchlight is a British mystery set in war time. Not quite the golden era of detective fiction, but retro nonetheless. Fans of Classic Mystery books are in for a treat with this one.
A young man is stood up for a dinner date. He takes a turn in the park. It is pitch dark even though it is not that late. A man comes up on a bridge and lights a match. Young man sees the man’s face and it seems familiar to him. A few minutes later, another match is struck. Young man sees the face, and worse, a terrifying face behind the face. There is a thud and a body drops. Murder has been committed. Murder by match light.
Who wouldn’t be intrigued by this? After the initial excitement of the crime, the book seemed to drag a bit. I think it is more about the format than the narrative. Some books are just better read in their paper versions. Inspector MacDonald is meticulous in the investigation. Flanked by some trusted men in arms, he soon discovers the identity of the dead man, and where he lived. Now we are introduced to a motley crew of characters, each stranger than the rest. The 80 year old landlady who says she is 60, another old man, some women trying to preserve their youth and looks, and some conjurers. Everyone calls the dead man Irish, even though his name is Ward.
After about 40-50% of the book, I really got sucked into the mystery. It is worth saying that the reader is totally clueless about who the culprit is. After about 90%, the police seem stumped too. This is the point in the story when you know it is going to end, but you wonder how everything could be wrapped up so quickly. Then it is just a question of tying loose ends.
As I read more and more, it is more a question of how the author ends it rather than how the story ends. Sometimes, I feel I might have been better not knowing the solution. The air raids and blackouts in London are captured very well and they add to the whole aura.
If you love mystery books, especially those in historical settings, this book is a must read for you. Two thumbs up from me.