The plot could’ve worked far better as a short story or novella. As a novel it is very short and very padded with much of the action reiterated and played over repeatedly over the course of its 170 pages. Essentially, it’s one of those “psycho lady holding a person captive” stories. You’ve probably seen a few of these books turned into movies like Die! Die! My Darling! (aka Fanatic), You’ll Like My Mother, and That Cold Day in the Park. Usually this plot formula is played out with a domineering, over-the-edge, middle-aged mother cast as the lunatic captor who is desperately trying to protect some dark family secret while the kidnapped victim is usually a young woman seen as an interloper.
In Creasey’s novel there is a slightly original twist. The loony is Midge Benison, a young woman and her captive is Jim Clayton, a handsome young man who she recognizes from newspaper and TV reports as an accused murderer on the run. Midge agrees to hide Jim and when he foolishly agrees he finds himself trapped in an attic with only one entry/exit that is locked every night. The novel basically tells us the story of Jim's attempts to escape his prison, the police investigation to locate his whereabouts, and the backstory of why Midge behaves the way she does.
The only reason I kept reading was for the portrait of the landlady Ermyntrude Stern, who catches onto the young woman’s plotting. In fact, Midge -- who is Miss Stern's only lodger -- is so transparent in how she brings men into the landlady’s home for obvious sexual encounters it’s a wonder she wasn’t evicted within a few months. But Ermyntrude is the most human and fully realized character in the story; each time she appears the book truly comes alive. There is a sort of corny fantasized romance she dreams up when she meets Dr. Cellini. The two of them join forces in ferreting out the various hiding places where the young woman has hidden her captive. But Cellini does not really solve anything. It’s Miss Stern who is the real detective of the book.
This is not at all recommended even for the mildly curious. I doubt I’ll be checking out any of the other Dr. Cellini books. For the record the books are published under the pseudonym "Michael Halliday" in the UK and as "by Kyle Hunt" in the US. And of course reprints have Creasey’s names emblazoned across the cover as if he were the world’s leading bestseller writer. Apart from a few of the outlandish spy fantasies featuring Dr. Palfrey I have yet to find a Creasey mystery that I found either gripping or entertaining. They’re all sort of blah to me. This must be the price one pays for being such an outrageously prolific writing machine.