Murderer's Choice, Anna Mary Wells, Perennial Library, $3.50(out of print, check for used copies at our ABE store).
Two cousins who have hated each other all their lives meet for lunch. One is a wealthy mystery writer; the other, a struggling stock broker's clerk. The wealthy one tells the poor one he plans to kill himself - but he'll make it look like his cousin did it. His final pleasure, he says, will be in knowing that his cousin will fry in the electric chair for a crime he didn't commit. Fast forward a few months and the surviving cousin, Frank, has approached a private detective agency to look into the apparently blameless death of his cousin, Charles. The private detective, a certain practical Miss Pomeroy, formerly a nurse, is mystified by Frank's request, but she goes along with it, and when it develops that the money Charles has supposedly left behind is a)missing, and b)promised to a wife who turns up out of nowhere, she agrees to go out to Charles' house in the country to hunt for the money, or at least a clue to its whereabouts.
This is pretty much an iron clad plot, and in Wells' capable hands, it's an exquisite creation - the characters are well developed, the writing is crisp and light, and the story is full of twists, both unexpected and otherwise, that are completely satisfying. Wells was an American writing during the 40's - she proves the golden age wasn't limited to Great Britain.
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