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Somebody at the Door by Raymond Postgate

Somebody at the Door (1943)

by Raymond Postgate

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A Golden Age murder mystery, this is the second mystery by author Raymond Postgate. It's set in 1942 while Britain was at war. The wartime setting sets the tone and provides some dark atmosphere to the story.
Mr. Henry Grayling dies by means of mustard gas poisoning, after riding from London to his suburban home in a railway car with several other people. He's carrying a substantial amount of cash, the payroll for his company's staff in the area where he lives. He is responsible for disbursing it. This cash is missing when he shows up at his home in distress and his wife carries him inside. He dies a couple of hours later. At first it looks like a robbery gone bad.
As the story unfolds we learn that Mr. Grayling was not a nice person and was not well-liked. In fact, several of the people in the railway coach with him on his last trip had good reasons to want him dead. It's up to Inspector Holly to sift through the various motives and identify the killer. Along the way readers are treated to several interesting backstories about Grayling's fellow passengers, e.g. the mysterious German refugee's flight from Germany. The identity of the killer may catch many by surprise.
It's a great read and is recommended. ( )
  BrianEWilliams | Mar 25, 2018 |
London, 1942. Bombs and blackouts, and trains that are out of schedule. The latter circumstance particularly irks Councillor Grayling, whom we follow on his journey home on the 6:12 from Euston. Little does he know that it’s his last journey. Later that night he dies at home with symptoms of what look like mustard gas poisoning. Sure there’s a war on, but how could he have been poisoned in that way? And who could it have been? He seems to have had no shortage of enemies…

This was an interesting book to read. Life on the home front during the world wars is always an interesting subject, and it’s depicted well here. I also liked the device of beginning several chapters with a diagram of the train carriage in which Grayling made his last journey: as the police interviewed each occupant, the subject of that chapter would be indicated by a dot. This was a good way to keep track of everybody and to follow along with the Inspector’s investigations.

Overall, I’d say this is worth looking into if you like books about the world wars that were written at the time. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Mar 25, 2018 |
Henry Grayling, an accounting clerk in a London firm, takes the train home every evening to the small village of Croxburn, where he is the town councillor. Each Friday evening, he carries home a case filled with cash – payroll that he must deliver on Saturday morning to several offices of the firm that are near to his home. On this particular Friday in January 1942, he shares a train car with several people he dislikes – the Vicar of Croxburn, who is a fellow town councillor, a young man who is a chemist in his firm, a corporal from his Home Guard platoon, a young man with a club foot and a refugee German. Upon reaching his station, he and the other passengers disembark to find their way home in the moonless night. Later that night, the Vicar is called to Grayling’s home by Grayling’s wife, Renata, who informs him that Grayling is dying. Renata has also called Inspector Holly and Dr. Hopkins, as she found her husband on the doorstep, later than his usual homecoming, bloody and in a terrible condition. The empty case has been found down the road. After Grayling dies that evening, it is clear to Inspector Holly that he has been murdered, but he must determine first how Grayling was murdered before he can find the murderer.

Somebody at the Door is the second book by Raymond Postgate that I have read, both having been republished by the British Library and Poisoned Pen Press. As he does in The Verdict of Twelve, Postgate proceeds logically through the story, taking each of the suspects in turn and giving us their backstory complete with reasons as to why they may have wanted to murder Henry Grayling. The book doesn’t take the same format as a typical Golden Age mystery; instead, each chapter reads as its own individual story, with Inspector Holly’s investigation tying it all together.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The facts were laid out in a very logical, yet story-like, manner. There was no dearth of suspects; however, I believe one can follow the clues and arrive at the correct solution which was well thought out by the author. The methodical nature of the plot may not appeal to some, but I believe it will appeal to those who enjoy Golden Age detection.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press in exchange for an honest review. ( )
1 vote rretzler | Feb 21, 2018 |
Somebody at the Door is a war-time murder mystery by Raymond Postgate. Published during the war, much of the plot hinges on the war-time environment, the dangerous darkness of the London blackouts and the training of citizens for para-military home guard and civil defense. A disagreeable man is murdered on his way home, dragging himself to his door. Coincidentally, nearly everyone in his train compartment is someone who has reason to dislike him enough to kill him. I think that says more about his character than anything else.

Inspector Holly is a highly organized and methodical detective investigating the murder. He is frustrated because there are simply too many suspects. Nearly everyone he investigates, it turns out, has plenty of motive, means, and opportunity. Henry Grayling is just a disagreeable, miserable cuss and worked at making other people miserable, though I am certain he thought himself a thoroughly proper gentleman.

I enjoyed the investigation in Somebody at the Door. It was methodical, clear, fair and everything a classical detective lover would hope for. It also is a fascinating insight into the lives of people during the War. There are so many narratives that come together on that train ride and so many secrets: theft, corruption, adultery, illegal abortions, espionage, all on one train. It seems Grayling knew no ordinary people.

I was disappointed in the resolution, though it is totally in keeping with the character. I wanted someone else to be the murderer, but sometimes that happens. I followed a couple red herrings, something I hardly ever fall for. I am always happy when I don’t know for certain who the killer is within five paragraphs of his/her introduction. When a red herring succeeds in leading me down a false path, I like it even better. So there is a lot to like about Somebody at the Door. It just ended somewhat anti-climactically–totally in character, but not satisfying for the reader.

I received an e-galley of Somebody at the Door from the publisher through NetGalley.

Somebody at the Door at Poisoned Pen Press
Raymond Postgate – Wikipedia

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/9781464209123/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Feb 14, 2018 |
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WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY MARTIN EDWARDS 'The death was an odd one, it was true; but there was after all no very clear reason to assume it was anything but natural.' In the winter of 1942, England lies cold and dark in the wartime blackout. One bleak evening, Councillor Grayling steps off the 6.12 from Euston, carrying 120 in cash, and oblivious to the fate that awaits him in the snow-covered suburbs. Inspector Holly draws up a list of Grayling's fellow passengers: his distrusted employee Charles Evetts, the charming Hugh Rolandson, and an unknown refugee from Nazi Germany, among others. Inspector Holly will soon discover that each passenger harbours their own dark secrets, and that the councillor had more than one enemy among them. First published in 1943, Raymond Postgate's wartime murder mystery combines thrilling detection with rich characters and a fascinating depiction of life on the home front.… (more)

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