About the author (from encyclopedia.com): Pseudonym of Mathilde Eiker (1893-1982). As March Evermay, Eiker wrote three detective novels. Like British contemporaries, she minimizes brutality to emphasize motive and intellectual process. In They Talked of Poison (1938), scrupulous, sentimental Inspector Glover patiently solves a murder for a university seminar of expert suspects. In This Death Was Murder (1940), he explains three suspicious deaths despite the jealous quarrels and loyal deceptions of five sibling heirs. A final mystery, Red Light for Murder (1951), ended Eiker's writing career See also this biography.
Erich Humphrey, her 2nd husband
Zunella, Humprey's maid
Marcella's five children:
- Teresa Haskell, the sweet innocent one
- Rachel Haskell Dunlop, the nasty one
- Millicent Haskell Remington, who stayed in Miami instead
- Frederick Thomas Haskell, a drunk waster
- Raymond Blair Haskell
Curtis Anderson, attorney
Richard Hollis, attorney
Locale: East coast of US
Synopsis: We follow the actions of our protagonist, Teresa Haskell. Her mother, Wealthy Marcella Humphrey of the lavish estate Pine Acres has just died as the story opens. Teresa and her four siblings gather for the funeral. It is awkward for them, as their mother had recently remarried - to Erich Humphrey - and had converted to his Catholic faith; of which they are unfamiliar.
After the service, they gather for the reading of the will. They knew each would receive 1/5 of her substantial estate. All are surprised when Marcella's long-time attorney, Curtis Anderson, announces she had made a later will with a different attorney, Richard Hollis. When this later will is read, each of her children now only get $20,000 each, with the remaining $3 million going to her husband, Erich Humphrey.
The shocked siblings discuss whether they should contest the will - and whether she was influenced by Humphrey to make it in his favor. Influence seems unlikely, Humphrey is a kind man of simple tastes, having moved from the estate to a small house and eating beans and bacon every day. His only plan for his windfall is to make some modest renovations to his home to allow him to paint as a hobby.
Humphrey phones Teresa and asks to meet with her to discuss the fate of the Pine Acres estate. She goes to his home and finds him dead of a gunshot wound. While they consider the effect this will have on their inheritance, rumors surface that Humphrey was keeping a mistress on the side. An additional murder throws the inheritance-chain into confusion for the money-grubbing relatives.
Oh, this was a looooong book. It could have been improved by editing it down to half the length. The unnecessary initial story line of the mother being poisoned was abandoned and faded away. After this false start, things slow down. The tedious middle portion of the book (with chapters subdivided into numbered subchapters) examines all possibilities in great detail. We are teased with the Teresa Haskell / Richard Hollis relationship which doesn't go anywhere. The denouement goes into far too much detail. The critical clue which breaks the case is pretty clever though.
Tip for the reader: Anna Humfried and Frieda are the same person. Anna is her real name, Frieda is her stage name. This is not stated anywhere and it took a while to determine they are one person.