Puzzle fans rejoice: DI Manson is on the case.

As part of their ongoing mission to revive excellent but neglected authors, Dean Street Press are reissuing some of the most entertaining golden age crime fiction. ‘Who Killed Dick Whittington’ (written by husband and wife writing team E. & M. A. Radford) is indeed a classic of the genre, featuring a murder that can apparently only have been committed by one person…who definitely could not have done it. So who did? DI Harry Manson is going to find out…

What’s it about?

When Norma de Grey, star of the Christmas pantomime, is poisoned live on stage, there’s no shortage of immediate suspects. Loathed by the rest of the cast, Miss de Grey clearly won’t be missed by her fellow actors, but the staging meant that only the Cat was physically close enough to kill her. It seems like an open and shut case, until the Cat is found poisoned in his dressing room…

So we want to know whodunnit and how, and the authors egg us on by drawing clues explicitly to our attention, breaking the fourth wall to do so. This will divide readers – keen puzzle solvers may relish the explicit challenge, while those who just want to let the fiction baffle and beguile may find themselves irked by the call to arms. Personally, I quite enjoyed the challenge, though I didn’t manage to solve them all!

What’s it like?

Utterly engrossing, steeped in theatrical details, and a complete joy for those who like their crime solving to involve a spot of forensic science.

DI Manson works as part of a team to relentlessly sift through the available evidence and reach the only possible conclusion. I defy you to work it out before the ever cogitating detective, but E. & M. A. Radford do provide all the necessary clues along the way, giving readers a fair chance to solve the mystery.

In a separate investigation from the original poisonings, someone has been indulging in a bit of arson. It will be no surprise to see these two investigations gradually gain a bearing on each other, and it’s a positive delight to see the solutions and conclusion intertwine in an elegant epilogue that makes good use of courtroom reporting.

Final thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, both for the crime solving and learning a bit more about the way the theatre operates. I shall definitely be seeking out the other titles written by E. & M. A. Radford and revived by Dean Street Press: ‘Murder Jigsaw’ and ‘Murder isn’t Cricket’ (though I do wonder if the world of cricket can possibly be as entertaining as the world of the theatre? I hope so!)

‘Who Killed Dick Whittington?’,
E. & M. A Radford,
2019, Dean Street Press, paperback
Many thanks to the publishers, Dean Street Press, for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.