D.M.Devine was in many ways a writer in the classic Golden Age tradition, although his first book did not appear until 1961. This was My Brother's Killer, which has recently been republished as an Arcturus Crime Classic. Apparently, Devine entered it for a "don's detective novel" competition run by Collins Crime Club, but having been voted the winner - by judges including Agatha Christie - he was disqualified because technically he was not a don, but a university administrator - at a senior level, at St Andrews. An unlucky start, but the book deservedly found its way into print. What's more, Christie remained a fan, and when I visited her former home Greenway in May I remember seeing at least one book by Devine on the shelves there.
The story is set around a solicitors' office. Two brothers are partners. Simon Barnett narrates the story, and on one foggy night he responds to an urgent call from his brother Oliver only to find that Oliver has been murdered in his office. Oliver was a rascally character, and there are plentiful suspects, including a third partner called Fergusson.
Simon, a solid and decent sort of chap, is shocked to learn that Olive appears to have been a blackmailer. In addition, he betrayed his disfigured wife with a series of women in a squalid house that he rented under a pseudonym. A woman whom Simon once loved is arrested, but Simon is convinced of her innocence, and turns amateur detective, assisted by two colleagues.
The plot is elaborate and very carefully worked out. It depends in part on an alibi, and also on the extreme ingenuity and callousness of the culprit. Bearing in mind this was a first novel, I thought it was very well done, and I could see why Christie admired it. Devine went on to write a dozen more books, and although he never touched the heights, he was one of the mainstays of the Collins Crime Club for almost two decades. This is an extremely worthwhile reprint.