Nest of Vipers (Gladys Mitchell)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Late, but excellent, Mitchell, in which Dame Beatrice (under the alias of Mrs. Farintosh — c.f. Watson’s Choice) goes to stay at a country-house converted into a block of flats, inhabited by a group of picturesque and sinister eccentrics, in order to clear the landlord of a murder committed on the premises. She tackles a poison-pen, a sinister dwarf, pseudo-bigamy, a bizarre antique shop and its mysterious owner, and a sinister witchcraft cult devoted to the ritual sacrifice of virgins. These imaginative elements, the interesting characters with their equally interesting names (e.g., Mandrake Shard, Latimer Targe), and the careful plotting, all go to show that Mitchell has not lost her grip after fifty years.

Note similarities to Merlin’s Furlong.

Blurb (UK)

A young man who is superintendent of a public swimming pool is left a totally unexpected fortune together with a neglected but very large house.

Influenced by his ex-fiancée, who undertakes the business side of the arrangements, he allows the mansion to be turned into a number of flats and these are let to successful writers, including journalists.  These are of both sexes and not all of them are very likeable.

The most mysterious is an elderly woman who chooses to live in the converted stable block.  She affects to edit the journal of an esoteric sect called the Panconscious People.  These turn out to be anything but a religious body in the accepted sense and are, in fact, practising satanists.

Murder is followed by the arrest of the young landlord, some obnoxious disclosures are made, and a second murder takes place.

Dame Beatrice Lestrange Bradley solves both mysteries in her own way and makes certain that the second murderer is put beyond reach of the law, a moral judgement for which she takes full and urbane responsibility.