Gladys Mitchell: The Twenty-third Man

The Twenty-Third Man - Gladys Mitchell

The Twenty-third Man is another installment of the cozy mystery series starring Mrs. Bradley, though now elevated to Dame Beatrice.

 

Dame Beatrice visits a fictional island holiday resort in the Canaries, and is inevitably drawn into the investigation when one of the hotel guests is found dead.

 

In TheTwenty-third Man, the murder mystery does not take centre stage. Maybe it was supposed to but in this story the actual sleuthing is less enjoyable than Mrs. Bradley's - erm, sorry - Dame Beatrice's interaction with the other hotel guests. Here's one of my favourite scenes:

 

"Clement pushed her into the ornamental lake yesterday. Of course, Clement is not like other children," said his foster-mother. "We believe in absolute freedom. Any psychiatrist will tell you..."
"Pardon me, but there is at least one who will not."
"I meant to say--"
"You see, I am a psychiatrist myself."
"Oh? Oh! Then you'll be just the person!"
"I am afraid I must contradict you."
"But Clement--"
"I am here on holiday, and, in any case, my methods would prove too drastic for Clement, I fear."
"Oh, I don't mean shock treatment or anything of that kind! I thought an analysis under light hypnosis would be best."
Dame Beatrice cackled. "Hypnosis would certainly be necessary," she agreed. She got up. "I am glad your son did not push 
me into the ornamental pond."
"Well, for your sake..." Mrs. Drashleigh began.
"For his," said Dame Beatrice.

 

Even more impressive than Dame Beatrice is her assistant Laura, who is seconded to the island while Dame Beatrice returns to the UK to conduct research into the some of the suspects' background.

 

The story is convoluted at times, but one by one Dame B. and Laura untangle a web of deceit until the truth of the murder is revealed. As always with Dame B., the investigation is driven by psychological assessment rather than by forensic analysis.

 

Enjoyable, but not very demanding. Goes nicely with tea and biscuits.