The is the twelfth Dr. Hailey mystery I've subjected myself too in an effort to read the twenty-two books (out of Wynne's total output of 28) I've acquired over the years. And the good news is that I think I have found the absolute best in the entire series. The plot is non-stop action with very little of the usual Wynne lagging and dullness. The detection is keen and very fairly clued which is not the norm for Wynne. And the impossible crime along with the other two murders and the mystery of the gold coins found at the scene of each death are more than satisfyingly explained. Histrionics and melodrama are still present in ample amounts, but there is a sound resolution to all the problems and a real ending rather than his usual abrupt stop.
|Bryn Terfel as Falstaff|
Just as I picture Maj. Pykewood
INNOVATIONS: Wynne's impossible problem is one of the best of the books I've read so far. Unlike the contrived deaths in previous books the puzzle comes about as part of an accident when the murderer attempts to cover up his crime. And the solution is simple and rather brilliant. It's the manner in which the problem is obfuscated by the characters' poor observations that always tends to baffle the reader. The mystery of the appearance of the gold coins is also cleverly handled and so well clued that I was able to figure almost all of how the hidden treasure was transported from place to place and how poor Henry the footman (the second murder) met his death.
There is more genuine detection in The Case of the Gold Coins than in any other Wynne book I've read to date. Dr. Hailey does a thorough job of ruling out obvious answers to how Lord Wallace's body turned up on the beach making it all the more puzzling to arrive at the real reason. He manages to deduce where the gold coins were hidden on the island by looking at the growth of seaweed and barnacles on the rocks. In investigating an outside entrance to a cellar he pays careful attention to the way a trapdoor is constructed and discovers how someone could have bolted the door without ever being inside the cellar. All sorts of brilliant stuff, all of it providing the reader with fantastic clues.
Bill Pronzini has praised The Case of the Gold Coins in 1001 Midnights as probably the best of the Wynne books. I have to agree with him. Everything any detective fiction purist would want in a book is here to make for an entertaining and satisfying read.