“An academic life, Dr. Johnson observed, puts one little in the way of extraordinary casualties. This was not the experience of the Fellows and scholars of St. Anthony’s College when they awoke one raw November morning to find their President, Josiah Umpleby, murdered in the night. The crime was at once intriguing and bizarre, efficient and theatrical.”
And there is so much more to come! What we have here is the opening of Death At The President’s Lodging, by Michael Innes, the first recorded case of Inspector John Appleby. Originally published in 1936, and known in the U. S. by the title Seven Suspects, Death at the President’s Lodging is the subject of today’s audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the complete review by clicking here.
It is invigorating to find the problem set out for the reader this way in the very first paragraph of the book, but it is, of course, only the beginning of a very complex mystery indeed. For the events leading up to Umpleby’s death will prove to be a considerably more difficult and perplexing puzzle than might be posed by a simple, straightforward shooting.
Appleby finds himself assigned to investigate Umpleby’s murder. Umpleby has been shot to death in his residence, which is one of the college buildings located in a portion of the campus which is securely locked at night, when the murder was committed, and only a handful of senior scholars have keys. So the field of suspects would appear to be severely limited.
And it is also true that the murder itself was surrounded by very peculiar circumstances – not least of which is the fact that the President’s body is lying in the midst of human bones, scattered across the floor of his study. There are a great many clues – too many of them, perhaps, and yet, although Umpleby was nearly universally disliked, it proves to be extremely difficult to find a scholar with a motive for the murder who would, in fact, have had the opportunity to commit the crime.
It is up to Appleby, of course, to get everything sorted out. And I have to warn you that the ultimate solution, when Appleby explains it, is likely to induce dizziness on the reader’s part. But it is eminently satisfying. Innes is one of my favorite authors, whose writing manages to include a great deal of wit and humor along with a splendidly complex plot. This was his first mystery. It’s highly entertaining.
The 2015 Bingo Challenge
Continuing my participation in the 2015 Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge. under way at the My Reader’s Block blog, Death at the President’s Lodging is my entry for the square (third row, sixth column) calling for one book published under more than one title.