Knock, Murderer, Knock by Harriet Rutland

Careful with that knitting needle…

😀 😀 😀 😀

The long-term residents of Presteignton Hydro are mostly an elderly bunch, solid middle-class people, retired military men or the wives or widows of the same, and the occasional member of the titled gentry. So beautiful young Miss Blake stands out and becomes the subject of envy and gossip among the women and the target of lust among the elderly men. When she is found dead with a knitting needle through her brain, Inspector Palk finds himself up to his armpits in suspects, but soon catches his murderer… or so he thinks. And then another woman is found dead…

This is quite a fun mystery in the typical Golden Age style. The Hydro setting means there is a small circle of suspects, each with secrets and possible motives, while the police detective soon has to give way to the talented amateur – not that Mr Winkley, with his background in the military and his links with Scotland Yard, is exactly an amateur, but he doesn’t work through the normal police structure. He also doesn’t show up until the book is more than half over, so although poor Palk is upstaged at the end, it’s him we spend most time with in the early parts of the investigation.

Rutland has a keen eye for class and snobbery, and has a lot of fun with her characters, from the lowly housemaids all the way up to the not-quite aristocratic Lady Warme (her title a relic of her dead husband, knighted for being the man behind “Warme’s Patent Cornflour”, as her fellow residents can’t help reminding her from time to time). Palk is also fun, though we rather laugh at him than with him which I’m never as keen on. He jumps to conclusions, and having jumped is reluctant to ever admit he may have been wrong, so even the introduction of a second corpse, murdered in the same way, doesn’t shake his belief that he has caught the right person for the first murder. The second murder must be a copycat, he feels. But then the third body turns up and even he has to admit that three separate murderers might be stretching coincidence too far…

Although I enjoyed reading this overall, there were a couple of things that didn’t work for me and that I felt stopped it from reaching the top ranks of vintage crime. The first murder was of a perfect Golden Age victim – mysterious, shady background, not quite suited to her surroundings. The second victim, however, is a young woman who didn’t “deserve” to die and she left behind grieving relatives, whom I felt Rutland didn’t handle particularly well. The third murder was of someone else who, in my opinion, was too innocent to be a suitable victim, and I found it hard to reconcile the overall tone with these latter two murders. I also felt that the motive was a bit hackneyed and also a little obvious – I had a good idea of who the murderer was from quite early on, and also of why they were doing it.

As a result of these points I enjoyed the first half considerably more than the second. The characterisation of all the residents is well done – not too in depth and perhaps a little caricatured as “types”, but no less fun for that. As well as the Cornflour Widow and a variety of others, there’s the nurse seeking a husband, the put-upon doctor having to deal with as much hypochondria as genuine illness, the rivalry between the elderly men for beautiful Miss Blake’s attention, and the aspiring mystery writer whom Rutland uses to poke gentle fun at her own craft. In such a small, enclosed community there’s plenty of gossip along with the usual petty squabbles and resentments of those with too much time on their hands. Based on the first half it was heading for the full five stars from me, but I found my enthusiasm wore a little thin when the events darkened to a point where I found the light, humorous tone increasingly jarring.

Four stars, then, and I’d be happy to read more of Rutland in the future, though it appears she only wrote three books and then stopped, for reasons unknown.

This was The People’s Choice winner for September, and another good one – you’re on a roll, People!

Book 9 of 12

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

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On a personal note…

Last week I had to make the difficult decision to have my dear little Tuppence put to sleep after a short but terminal illness. I tell you this not to seek condolences – I know fellow pet lovers out there know how hard these things are – but because I’ve always joked about her on the blog and didn’t want her disappearance to go unexplained. She was a little cat with a big personality, and her brother Tommy and I are missing her very much.

39 thoughts on “Knock, Murderer, Knock by Harriet Rutland

  1. Oh, I’m sorry about Tuppence! Yes, I’m sure she’s being sorely missed by you and her brother. She will also be missed by your followers. As for knitting needles through the head….well, it sounds like a difficult deed, not knowing how sharp and sturdy those things are. I’m skeptical.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jilanne. Yes. Tommy and I will miss her very much – she had a big personality for such a little animal. Nice to hear she had fans in the blogosphere! 🙂 Haha, well I know exactly how to do it now – which bit of the skull is susceptible and how to stop the needle slipping, so all I can say it it would be quite dangerous to annoy me when I’m knitting… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, my. A knitting needle through the head?? Was the point of insertion through the ear or the eye? I need to catch up on the Golden Age Crime I already have in my TBR before I add more.

    I’m truly sorry about Tuppence… both for you and for Tommy. They’re members of our families and it’s painful to say goodbye.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kelly. Yes, even knowing that they will only have short lives doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye. 🙂

      Aha, no! I know exactly where the needle should be stuck for maximum effect but I’m keeping it secret in case I ever get annoyed while knitting… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I’m so sorry for your loss – I’m sure you are missing Tuppence.

    As for the book, I love the “Cornflour Widow” type titled people when they show up in Wodehouse (where they are ever present), so I’m sure that would be funny here, though as you say it might grate as the book gets darker but the jokes keep coming.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. We are indeed missing her. 🙂

      Haha, yes – all the fully snobbery of the British class system is on display when these industrial peers make an appearance! I wonder how many generations a family has to have a title before they get classed as aristocracy… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m very sorry to hear about Tuppence, she looks like she must have been a cat of Strong and Charming personality.

    A knitting needle? It must have been wielded with considerable force or was unusual, every one of things I’ve come across has a fairly blunt tip!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Julé – she was indeed, and we’re missing her bossing us around! 🙂

      Yes, the way she described the needles sounded very different from the kind we’re used to. They were all double-ended for a start – like sock needles – and they all seemed to be the same size! I couldn’t decide if things had changed or if Rutland just didn’t know about knitting… 😉 However I now know exactly which bit of the head to stick them in for maximum effect, so it will be quite dangerous to annoy me when knitting in future…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am very sorry for your loss. We had to say goodbye to our dog only a couple of weeks ago, he was 12, so I am fully aware of how difficult it is. I am sending virtual hugs. xx

    Knitting needle through her brain? I just saw this kind of killing in a TV series I watch – Lilyhammer (fun, I highly recommend it).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I’m sorry to hear that too, Anca. It’s the real downside of pet ownership. We know they’ll only have short lives but it doesn’t make it any easier when the time comes to say goodbye.

      It’s amazing how many everyday household objects can be used as murder weapons! It’s a miracle any of us survive… 😉


  6. Oh FF, I’m so sorry. I know you don’t want outpourings so I’m just communing. I know what it’s like. Virtual and socially distanced hugs to you and condoling strokes for Tommy. And chocolate. And tuna…
    And just so you know, I’m going to have an image of that knitting needle in the brain for the rest of the day… x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sandra. We know when we take on a pet that they only have short lives, but it doesn’t make it any easier when the time comes to say goodbye. Tommy and I are trying hard to get used to her absence. 🙂

      Haha, it’s amazing the many household objects that work as murder weapons! All I can say is, people better be careful about annoying me when I’m knitting in future… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Madame B. Tommy seems to be getting over the worst of his anxiety thankfully, and if he’s happier, I’ll be happier. 🙂

      Haha, I wondered what exactly he had patented about it?? I thought she was great at all the class snobbery stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I can’t help but also send my condolences on the loss of Tuppence. She was a beautiful kitty! I know what it’s like to have to make that decision, so so hard.

    As for the book, it sounds like it was fun even with the less than stellar second half. Glad the People came through for you again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Laila – she was a lovely little cat and we miss her. I know most pet owners have had the same experience – it’s the downside of loving such short-lived creatures.

      The People have been doing well recently – it’s all bound to go horribly wrong soon… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh dear FF I’m so sorry to hear about Tuppence. These things can be so difficult so my heart goes out to you.

    On another note, this murder mystery sounds delightful, although I’m with you in that I don’t like laughing *at* the protagonists, or someone who bumbles a little too much, I feel badly so I can’t enjoy myself, even if they are fictional characters!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Anne. Tommy and I are missing her – it’s the one real downside to loving pets, that we know they have such short little lives.

      Yes, I always think humour works better when you’re laughing *with* the characters rather than at them. Fortunately Palk gets help in the end, but boy, did he need it!

      Liked by 1 person

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