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Spence at Marlby Manor

Spence at Marlby Manor - Michael Derek Allen Born in 1939, English author Michael Derek Allen had a career in education, first as a teacher and then as a university administrator at the University of Bath, and also served a brief stint working for the New York Herald Tribune. When he retired from all his various day jobs, he started his own small press, Kingsfield Publications, and turned his hand to writing novels full-time under the pen names Michael Bradford, Anne Moore and Patrick Read.

Allen has penned mostly standalone novels and short stories, but he did write three books in a series featuring his police detective Superintendent Ben Spence. The third and final book in that series was Spence at Marlby Manor, dating from 1982, in which wealthy Lady Dinnister of Marlby Manor begins to suffer from "accidents" she suspects are actually attempts on her life. When Lady Dinnister's companion Emily Fosdyke dies from arsenic poisoning, it's only natural she thinks she herself was the intended victim.

Detective Ben Spence agrees with the Lady of the Manor after interviewing a houseful of servants and family members that are all-too-eager to sell off Marlby Manor and inherit Lady Dinnister's considerable fortune. Chief among them is an artist son-in-law; a handsome but unmotivated grandson in love with a secretary neither Lady Dinnister nor Emily Fosdyke deemed good enough for him; and a selfish, greedy granddaughter and her husband who tend to live well beyond their means. But, as Spence and his assistant, Inspector Laruel, take a closer look, they uncover undercurrents of malevolence coming from an unexpected source.

Although "Publishers Weekly" was a little critical of the book's "awfully implausible murderer-catching traps to snare the culprit," the publication's reviewer ultimately deemed it "comfortable, mildly beguiling entertainment in the traditional style." It deviates a bit from the traditional police procedural into more of the classic whodunit format.