Being a member of the clergy and a writer of mysteries might seem two very different callings but Victor Lorenzo Whitechurch (1868-1933) was both: attached to the Church of England as well as a prolific writer and member of the Detection Club. He is best known today for his stories featuring the Railway Detective Thorpe Hazell. (A review of it can be read @ Pretty Sinister Books). But he also wrote a number of other books including Murder at the Pageant.
It was a very handsome old chair, lacquered in black and dark red and overlaid with brass filigree-work. The poles, also, were similarly ornamented. One of the bearers lifted the roof, which was hinged, slightly, and tilted it back, while another opened the side door. Queen Anne rose from her seat, stepped out, and graciously accepted the hand of her host. They led the way, followed by their respective retainers, to the entrance of the house, into which they disappeared.
The scene is well-received though there is a slight feeling that Mrs. Cresswell, who is playing the role of Queen Anne, should not be flaunting her pearls so:
"Don't you think Mrs. Cresswell is a silly ass to sport those pearls of hers all over the place?"
"Well, they are frightfully valuable, you know. I think she's simply asking for trouble."
"Oh, you mean it's a temptation?"
"Well, you don't know who there might have been among the crowd we had in here today. I know one thing, and that is that her husband would be perfectly hectic about it if he knew she'd been wearing that necklace. He's most awfully particular about it—family heirloom, and all that sort of thing. They say he only lets her put the thing on when he's present, or at shows where detectives are engaged."
"Well, he isn't here today, anyway. And the thing's all over now. If any motor bandits were about they'd have had the bally pearls by this time."
However, before the night is over the pearls go missing, a murder occurs, and the chair assumes a sinister significance. Now, it is up to the police (who are thankfully, shown as pretty competent) and ex-secret service agent Roger Bistrow, who is one of the guests at the manor as well as Master of the Pageant, to solve this double mystery.
This is an easy read which well captures the English countryside.
First Line: "The sedan-chair used in this scene is the chair in which Queen Anne was carried on the occasion of her visit to Frimley Manor in 1705."
Title: Murder at the Pageant
Author: Victor L. Whitechurch
Publication Details: London: Collins, 1930 (The Crime Club)
First Published: 1930
Other books read of the same author: None
Entry for FFB @ Pattinase.