Flikka Ashley and her outspoken Aunt Bee Chattock live in the ruins of a formerly great manor house called Shots Hall, located near a Sussex village named after it. Two-thirds of Shots Hall was destroyed by German incendiary bombs, leaving only its grand old tower, a cavernous great hall, the kitchen and a small drawing room. However genteel, poverty is still poverty, and the two women have been forced to make ends meet by selling off the occasional bottle of vintage port or prewar whiskey from the hall’s legendary cellars. Whatever their taste in architecture, the Chattocks thankfully knew their liquor. Thirty-six-year-old Flikka also brings in some money as a sculptor, but so far her talent far exceeds her commissions. Those commissions have been even fewer of late since Flik began work on her masterpiece, a life-sized mermaid she is carving from a giant sea-green stone hauled to Shots Hall from Wales. She is as secretive about this project as she is about her personal life. There are any number of rumors about Flikka’s past, all of which she refuses to discuss. When Molly Pritchard, an old family retainer, is murdered, a loathsome local policeman—who attentions were spurned by Flik—sets out to measure her lovely neck for a noose. Scotland Yard’s Lane Parry doesn’t think Flikka is guilty, but he has to admit that she is doing little to prove her innocence. First published in 1945 as Green December Fills the Graveyard, Murder at Shots Hall is the nearly forgotten debut of unquestionable merit by a writer whose career was all too short.
“Scotland Yard Inspector Lane Parry is called on to help a friend solve a local murder. Parry is somewhat attracted to the prime suspect, Flikka Ashley. Flik is a sculptor who lives with her Aunt Bee Chattock in the ruins of their family manor house. Bombed by the Germans, Flik and Bee make do living in the undamaged parts of the house. To supplement Flik’s earnings, they have had to take to selling off portions of the wine cellar an ancestor spent a lot of money laying down. When elderly servants are found dead, and murdered, Flik is found to be the last person to see them alive. In addition to Parry, the local doctor is also attracted to Flik, and is sure of her innocence. Flik cannot be said to be cooperative with the investigation, which is conducted in part by Det. Sgt. Arnoldson. Arnoldson is a truly despicable police officer who is letting his hatred of Flik get in the way of his job. The cast of characters was a well balanced mix of villagers, police, and suspects. The setting was well done, and the feel of the hall was just right. I will be anxiously waiting for the next in the series.”
“Too bad Sarsfield didn’t write more... she was definitely on a par with Agatha Christie. Thanks to the Rue Morgue Press for resurrecting this little gem. A fascinating read from an underrated author.”
—Midwest Book Review
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