Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Hand of Death

By now, my dear readers, you must know what a devoted admirer Miss Lemon has become of Margaret Yorke. Reading the sometimes grim -- but never dull -- The Hand of Death (1981) has done nothing to alter that opinion.

Like Agatha Christie's genius for hiding her murderers in plain sight, Margaret Yorke has the uncanny ability to dip into the most ordinary stock of Englishmen -- in this case, it is the quiet antiques dealer, Ronald Trimm -- and pull out the ones capable of the most shocking crimes. Though you'd hardly guess it from the face they put to the village at large, their secret lives and outrageous crimes are made completely plausible by Yorke's pen.

When Trimm's (aptly named in this novel, as he likes everything just so) advances are rebuffed by the marvelously depicted widow, Dorothea Wyatt, he sets off on a violent sexual spree. Almost as difficult to take as Trimm's selfishness and brutality, is the plot twist that puts the lonely widower and loyal friend to Dorothea, George Fortescue, into the frame for rape and murder.

Miss Lemon must warn her fans of cosy mysteries that The Hand of the Death is not one. For those who can stomach a bit of fictional violence, however, this novel is well worth the read -- indeed it is impossible to put down, once one has picked it up.

Within pages, it becomes clear why the pathetic Ronald Trimm behaves so abominably, proving again Margaret Yorke's mastery of psychological character study. She throws in a bit of good police procedural, too, but with just the right touch.

All of the characters in this novel, sympathetic or despicable as they are, are fully realized, which is what, Miss Lemon reckons, so ofter draws her back to Margaret Yorke.

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