Anthony Cade is a good looking, clever young man who loves adventure. As the story opens Anthony is in Africa planning to return to England. His friend Jimmy McGrath hires him to deliver some memoirs of a deceased monarch from one of the east European countries. The memoir probably contains some indiscreet revelations. Jimmy also asks him to return a packet of letters belonging to a Virginia Revel.
Even before Anthony gets to England there are several groups who want that memoir. There are a couple of groups connected to the eastern European country and a couple of groups of oil barons (oil has been discovered there) and then England’s Foreign Office is also interested.
Virginia Revel is an exquisitely beautiful young widow who loves new and amusing experiences. She also happens to be very charming and her cousin George, a member of the Foreign Office, invites her to attend a country party where he wants her to charm a certain gentleman. The party is at Chimneys, an old estate that has been in the Caterham family for centuries.
Even before the weekend party has had a chance to get off to a good start there is a murder. One of the heirs to the monarchy in that eastern European country is found dead. Underneath his body is a paper with a bloody red hand-print, just like the one on the cover of the book above. By the way, did I mention there was also a murder at Virginia Revel’s home in London? Anthony helped her dispose of the body so no one would think Virginia did it.
Inspector Battle of Scotland Yard is called in. He forbids anyone to leave and so we have all the suspects together in one place. The reader suspects everyone because no one seems to be who they say they are. Anthony and Virginia do a little sleuthing of their own which makes for great fun
In this quest of mine to read the complete set of Agatha Christie novels, I’m finding myself in the oddest predicament. Each month (I’m reading one per month) I find myself saying, “This is the best one!” I think I said that in last month’s The Man in the Brown Suit. But honestly, this one is THE BEST. It was witty and fun, had all sorts of red herrings and dead-end trails. My mind was guessing in all sorts of directions before it all finally game together in the end. If you’re looking for a good cozy mystery with no gore, this is it.
From the book Agatha Christie: The Woman and Her Mysteries by Gillian Gill:
“An even more humorous and sparkling form of Christie’s basic romantic duo is found in 1924’s The Secret of Chimneys, a novel that tells us a good deal, without really meaning to, about Christie’s attitudes toward men and sex.”