This month I am going to write about a book I have just re-read — Cyril Hare‘s Tenant for Death, the first book in his Inspector Mallet Mystery Series. This is the next book that I am writing about as part of my most popular and recommended Cozy Mystery series posts.
Cyril Hare who was an English judge (his real name was Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark) was an author who wrote towards the tail end of the period that many would consider the classic mystery book period. He wrote from the 1930s to the 1950s, and Tenant for Death was first published in 1937. Cyril Hare’s total output was quite a bit less than some of the other classic period mystery authors. For example, the Inspector Mallet series only has six books that were published over 21 years.
In this story, we are introduced to Inspector Mallet, a rather tall and stout man with a big appetite. He often seems to interrupt his sleuthing to refuel by going out to eat. His assistant is Detective-Sergeant Frant who is industrious and somewhat mystified by some of Inspector Mallet’s methods which include doing a lot of thinking (to the point of falling asleep in the office) and eating.
Nevertheless, Inspector Mallet is very successful. In this case, a high stakes financier, Mr. Ballentine, who committed a multiple-year fraud and was about to get caught goes missing and is found dead in a house that had been rented by a mysterious character. Mr. Ballentine’s disappearance happened just days after the release from prison of one of his earlier fraud victims who had said that he would see him dead.
The book is a leisurely read. The discovery of the body is not until around the book’s 15% point. This pace is not what you see in most modern Cozies, but I have to say that after reading a bunch of newer Cozies and then going to Cyril Hare, I did find it oddly attractive to read a book where the discovery of the body does not happen in the first few pages.
The setting is 1930s London and its surroundings which I found very interesting. Although Inspector Mallet is not an amateur sleuth (far from it!!), the book does have a Cozy atmosphere, although not the type found in modern Cozies. There is no small town, no heroine who inherits a shop, and the sleuth does not have to sneak around behind the backs of the police detectives, as examples.
The book has an old fashioned feel to it — mostly because it is an old-style mystery written so long ago. In the end, the clues are all gathered and laid out for the reader. All of the information that Inspector Mallet ends up thinking deeply about (remember what I said about him falling asleep at his office!) are available to the reader. Nothing significant is held back, so the reader has a fair chance to be a partner in discovering the murderer and the other mysteries involved in the story.
I found Tenant for Death a different and refreshing break from reading new Cozies (which I love too!!).