this is the 78th in my series of forgotten books
Death in the Middle Watch by Leo Bruce © 1974, Academy Chicago Arts 2004 hardcover, mystery featuring Carolus Deene
This is the second Carolus Deene mystery I’ve read, the other being Death at Hallows End. In this one, Deene is hired by a cruise company to go on a cruise into the Mediterranean to protect the passengers from a possible murder. It seems the cruise company’s owner has been receiving threatening messages, stating that “death is near”. Deene reluctantly takes the job, providing his housekeeper and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Stick, also go along at no cost. And so they set off.
We get the usual set of passenger descriptions, provided as each ascends the gangplank, with the usual hints about the character or background of each, so the reader can begin making assumptions, correct or not, about each of them. It’s only a night into the cruise when a cry of “Man overboard!” is heard by Deene and some other passengers, and he goes on deck to find a deck hand and the Captain in deep discussion. They deny any such cry, and insist no one has gone overboard and no one is missing. Sure enough, next morning the Purser reports all are present.
Two nights later, one of the passengers is strangled. The next day, at the first port of call, the passenger’s husband, who has been delayed by business and is just then joining the cruise, comes aboard. When he then is given the news of his wife’s death, he insists on diverting the ship to Gibraltar to take the body off the ship and fly it home to England for burial, which is what happens. Then another murder occurs, this one onshore at the next port of call.
Deene suggests to the Captain that he he knows who is behind the deaths, but that he can’t reveal it until they return to England, or another death will occur.
This was a light, fast read, not much of a plot and pretty easy to see through the red herrings. This is not as good as Death at Hallows End, but I’ll keep my eye out for other mysteries in this series by Bruce.