E.C.R. Lorac published The Sixteenth Stair in 1942. As usual, it features her low-key but appealing cop, Inspector Macdonald, and as so often in books written during the first part of her career, it is set in central London. A family called the Hazelys are at the heart of the action, along with a house in St John's Wood called the Villa Eugenie, which has an intriguing history..
Timothy Hazely, an American member of the family, comes to London and is tempted by the stories he's heard to take a look at the Villa Eugenie, which has been left unoccupied for many years, but his visit takes an unexpected turn when at the foot of the stairs, he discovers the body of a man with his neck broken. It turns out that the victim is a member of the family.
The house may not have been lived in for a long time, but it hasn't been entirely deserted. Macdonald and his team soon find out that it has been used as a rendezvous for an illicit love affair. A doctor has become involved with one of his patients, and one possibility is that he may be the culprit. Another is that he may have been framed by his lover's husband.
The Hazelys are a complex family in more ways than one, and I would have found a family tree helpful to enable me to keep in mind all the different family members. One reason why Lorac may not have supplied a tree is that it would have spoiled one of her surprises, but I still think it would have been worthwhile. It's an interesting and fairly distinctive story, and although I prefer some of Lorac's other books, such as Murder by Matchlight and Bats in the Belfry, it is a decent, and at times atmospheric read..