Seminar for Murder

When the members of a mystery writer’s club gather at a college residence for a weekend seminar and the award of the Golden Guillotine for the year’s best book, crime is virtually waiting to happen. The organizer, Sir Godfrey Grant, has accused Lawrence Haydon of plagiarism and cruelly exposed Lloyd Cooper’s physical and psychological disabilities in a recent book. Sir Godfrey’s former mistress, Bonnie Harper, brings their illegitimate child to the seminar; his Eurasian wife, Fay, is sleeping with his secretary, Dwight Connors. Tensions are high among competitors for the Golden Guillotine, and they are equally high among the unpublished writers who have been invited to bring manuscripts--Sir Godfrey’s notice can turn a novice into a professional. Finally, most of the writers are unhappy when Detective Chief Inspector Tom Maybridge, who has been invited to give a talk about ballistics, identifies a good many legal and forensic blunders in their books.

In recent years, the academic or professional conference has usefully replaced the country house-party as an occasion for gathering a group of ill-assorted people in an isolated place and exploring motive, means, and opportunity. By choosing crime writers for her conferees, B. M. Gill not only enlivens the formula but also produces a mystery-fans’ mystery, which provides classic characters and gives readers a fair chance to arrive at their own conclusions. The detective, Tom Maybridge, is unobtrusive, humane, and pleasantly fallible. Gill’s previous novel, THE TWELFTH JUROR, won Great Britain’s Golden Dagger award for the year’s best mystery.