Friday, 20 January 2017

Forgotten Book - Murder on Safari

Elspeth Huxley knew Africa very well, and wrote about it on many occasions with considerable insight. She also dabbled in detective fiction, and knowing that some good judges rate her very highly, I was glad to pick up a copy of her 1938 book Murder on Safari, which features her likeable cop Superintendent Vachell, a Canadian who has moved to East Africa.

Vachell is approached by a well-known hunter called Danny La Mere, who has been leading a safari funded by wealthy Lady Baradale. Absurdly, her ladyship has brought thirty thousand pounds' worth of jewels on the trip. When they are stolen, one is almost tempted to think it serves her right. But Vachell, a touch improbably, agrees to join the group, pretending to be a hunter himself, with a view to tracing the thief.

Vachell's cover is soon blown, and things go from bad to worse when her ladyship's remains are found - or what's left of them after the vultures have been at work. At first, it seems that she was killed by an animal, but it emerges that she was in fact a victim of murder. Before long, a second death occurs.

This is a classic "fair play" mystery, complete with cluefinder footnotes at the end which remind the reader of the evidence on which Vachell built a case against the culprit. This is a well-written mystery, and although I'm not in any way tempted to go on a safari myself, Huxley's presentation of life on safari has a very authentic feel. I didn't warm to most of the characters, but even so, I found myself admiring her way with words.


Nan said...

I'm interested in reading this. And I want to read The Flame Trees of Thika again.

Clothes In Books said...

I read this a long time ago, and my feelings were very like yours. Nice to be reminded of it - since then I have visited Kenya, and might find it interesting to re-read.