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The Man Who Wasn't There

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There is a good reason that this book, "The Man Who Wasn't There" was not published; it is just a bewildering overstuffed plot outline. I don't know if the physical location of the activity around the murder house is actual or fictional, but it is certainly confusing.  The author was not adept at managing the stream of suspects on or under the various bridges, towpaths, gates, windows, etc. She got completely bogged down in the mess of tall dark men, good-looking men with French accents hiding behind bushes, adulterous women,  extorted women, suspicious husbands, long-lost relatives all coming and going from the scene of the crime.  The various references to the WWII French resistance, diabolism, overheard conversations, missing girlfriends, bribery, numerous hand guns, inheritance issues , car chases, kidnapping, crying babies, antiquarian bookstores are tossed into this  mess being handled by the Heldar couple, their relatives, the police and maybe another mysterious character . This leaves no room for character development, which consists of character occasionally sitting down and having tea or a drink together. then rushing out to do some detecting.

Henrietta Hamilton certainly got in over her head and couldn't find her way out; neither can the poor reader.
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People who get mixed up in murder cases must expect to be bothered. And so it is for amateur sleuths Sally and Johnny Heldar late one evening. It seems cousin Tim has found himself in a bit of a pickle: his fiancée, Prue, has reneged on their engagement after becoming a suspect in the murder of her unlikeable employer. This is a fun read of vintage fiction. You will notice so many societal differences and behaviors and phrases common to the 50's. I understand there will be coming in this series and I highly recommend them. A nice distraction. Thank you NetGalley for the advanced readers copy for review.
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A romantic cozy mystery in the tradition of Patricia Wentworth and reminiscent of Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence Beresford mysteries, Henrietta Hamilton offers up an intriguing logic puzzle mystery.  Although this is 3.5 stars, I chose to rate it higher to increase its visibility and ascertain its worthiness in the British Golden Age mystery category.  This is a charming book, and the amateur sleuth being newly married with a baby is a twist on the mold, as is his occupation as an antiquarian bookseller.  A quick and entertaining weekend read, Hamilton's way of capturing the feel of a down on his luck aristocrat ousted by Nazi ghouls make this a worthwhile choice.
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Couldn't get even to the halfway point with this one. The writing is leaden, the setting barely sketched in and some of the characters nearly indistinguishable. Can't recommend it.
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The Man Who Wasn't There by Henrietta Hamilton is a book in the series of Uncrowned Queens of Crime and this one is in the series : A Sally and Johnny Heldar Mystery. It starts with an introduction by  Nick Shepherd. The author was his aunt and after her death he and his brother found 13 books never published. Among these four Sally and Johnny Helder mysteries.  The Man Who Wasn't There being one of them. That was a treat to receive as I liked the other in the series, so nice to renew the acquaintance. 
Sally and Johnny are in their cottage when Tim (Johnny's cousin)comes to visit asking for help. He is in love and wants to get married. The problem is that his girlfriend Prue is in trouble, but refuses to tell him what is wrong. She was a secretary for a very unsympathetic employer called Frodsham. He is found shot.
There are many suspects and motives such as blackmail, jealousy and treason. A difficult case and hard for the Helders to find out if Prus is more involved than Tim seems to think.
A well told mystery and it was also interesting to read Nick Shepherd’s introduction and learn a little more about the author.
He has listed the Sally and Johnny mysteries in the order he thinks they were written:
The Two Hundred Ghosts
Death at One Blow 
The Man Who Wasn't There 
A Night to Die
Death at Selden End
Cover Her Face
Answer in the Negative
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I did enjoy this title overall, but I found the characters to be rather annoying, particularly the girl that they were trying to exonerate!  I think I may have tolerated it better, were it set in the country or on an estate instead of Richmond.  A nice twist at the end, but not really for me.
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It is always a pleasure to read the latest 'find'  as Agora Books republish some of the forgotten classics from the golden age of crime fiction. This is a particular gem, written around 1956, but unpublished until now.
Sally and Johnny Heldar are surely one of the most likeable crime-solving couples ever written with their domestic life of intellectual integrity and background in antiquarian bookselling.
The plot here is clever, with a setting on the banks of the River Thames, and links to the French Resistance.
I applaud Agora Books and Henrietta Hamilton's nephews for allowing a new generation to enjoy this beautifully written mystery.
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Having read a couple of Henrietta Hamilton's stories it was very interesting to read the forward to this book by Nick Shepherd, the author's nephew; it cast a new light on 'Henrietta Hamilton' and her books.  Although I found the first couple of chapters difficult to wade through with the many different characters and numerous theories I, nevertheless, really enjoyed the book and look forward to the publication of more Sally and Johnny Heldar novels - the first chapter of one was tantilisingly inserted at the end of this book!
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The Man Who Wasn’t There by Henrietta Hamilton.
Absolutely loved it. So much in fact that I’ve already bought a copy of another book in the series. This duo reminds me somewhat of the Norths in the series written by Frances and Richard Lockridge in the 1930’s and 40’s. That series is set in New York, with a lot more cocktails and no baby, just a cat named Pete.
I’m looking forward to more in this mid-century cozyish series.
Thanks to Netgalley.
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The Man Who Wasn't There by Henrietta Hamilton is a newly discovered and previously unpublished Sally and Johnny Heldar mystery believed written in 1956, but not available for crime fiction fans until now. Having enjoyed Hamilton's first novel in the Sally and Johnny Heldar series, I was keen to give this one a try too. Unfortunately the story is primarily told through a series of interviews so I didn't feel that any of the characters had the opportunities to particularly well define themselves. The book felt a bit flat on that account, however I did enjoy the intricacies of Johnny's investigation into the case. Sally is too sidelined by domestic duties to take much part. I was pleasantly surprised by Hamilton's ultimate revelation, having completely failed to draw the correct conclusion myself.

Hamilton does follow Christie's example of hinging her plot on A Foreigner which was especially curious here as half the characters seemed to be French, yet only one of them gained the Foreigner moniker - and the only person to speak with a phonetically written accent was the suitably common charlady. The Man Who Wasn't There is certainly a book of its time, but none the less engaging for that and I look forward to reading more of this series as Agora publish them for us.
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Henrietta Hamilton's "The Man Who Wasn't There" features another installment of Johnny and Sally Heldar, the mystery-solving, husband-and-wife antiquarian booksellers. Johnny's cousin's girlfriend, Prue, works for Mr. Frodsham who is writing a book on diabolism. Prue has second thoughts about working for him and when she tries to resign, Mr. Frodsham threatens her unless she stays. In addition to herself, Prue fears he is blackmailing another woman, and Prue returns to The Poplars one night to attempt to help her. When Prue arrives for work the next morning, someone has shot and killed Mr. Frodsham and now she is a suspect. Johnny and Sally agree to investigate the murder on Prue and Mr. Frodsham's mother's behalf. Readers of classic British mysteries will find this book enjoyable. There are plenty of red herrings. It gets a bit bogged down when Sally and Johnny brainstorm their theories, but overall it's an entertaining book.
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Light and fun…

In my last review of a Henrietta Hamilton book, I expressed hope that Agora Books would continue re-issuing her books.   And not only have they done so, they’ve even managed to acquire the rights to some of her previously unpublished books, including this one, The Man Who Wasn’t There, which is part of her Sally and Johnny Heldar series.  As Hamilton’s nephew, Nick Shepherd, mentions in his short introduction, the order of the books in the series is a bit uncertain, but the best guess seems to be that this is the third in the series.   Regardless of series order, though, I was pleased to be offered an advance review copy, and to have a chance to retreat for a while into an easy-to-read mystery with lots of period details about England and France during and shortly after World War II.

As the story opens, Sally and Johnny get pulled into the goings-on by Johnny’s young cousin, Tim.  Tim, who is really more like a younger brother to Johnny, is worried about his girlfriend, Prudence Thorpe.   Prue is nineteen, but until recently she has been coddled by her wealthy parents, and doesn’t have much experience of the world.  After completing a secretarial course at Mrs. Wisbech’s, however, she has obtained a part-time position as secretary to an author and diabolist, Adolphe Frodsham.   It quickly becomes clear that Frodsham is not a nice character, but although Tim tries to get her to leave her post (and agree to marry him), Prue doesn’t want to give up her newly won independence.  Then Frodsham is found dead, and matters accelerate from there, with missing guns, doubtful alibis, red herrings, and a nice twist or two leading to the final solution.  Hamilton played fair with her clues, so I kind of thought I knew whodunnit, but I doubted myself right up to the end.      

If I have a complaint to make about The Man Who Wasn’t There, it’s that I felt a little bit guilty after reading it - as if I had secretly eaten a really big candy bar, and ended up on a sugar high.  Although Hamilton does write about how difficult things were during the war, and the victim, as mentioned above, is an unpleasant type, even perhaps a criminal, Sally and Johnny seem to live a pretty charmed life in post-war England.  They have a “daily”, Mrs. Williams, who not only manages to keep their household running smoothly, but is almost always ready to babysit Peter in the off-hours, so Sally and Johnny can go off detecting.   (And how does Mrs. Williams manage to conveniently live next door, even in a basement flat, on a daily’s wages?  I’m not implying anything illegal – just that it seems part and parcel of Sally and Johnny’s somewhat-too-easy life…)  

All-in-all, though, I don’t require that all of my reading-for-pleasure books have to have deeper meanings, and I quite enjoyed The Man Who Wasn’t There for what it was – a fun bit of escapism.   I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading others in the series.   Finally, please keep in mind that I don’t give many 5-star ratings, which I keep for truly exceptional books.   So for me, a 4-star rating is a “read-this-book” recommendation.    And my thanks again to Agora Books and NetGalley for the advance review copy!
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It’s a treat when previously unpublished books by an author I have read and enjoyed are discovered and published, as is the case here. While this one isn’t the best of Henrietta Hamilton I have read, it was enjoyable to spend time again in the company of Sally and Johnie Heldar. I appreciate the sleuthing with integrity- talking risks, but scrupulously reporting necessary details to police and being singularity clear to clients that they will do so.

While the plot was well developed and clues suitably laid, it needed, I think, tightening. There is, in places, far more detail than needed to further the plot. It held my interest, but I found myself skimming on some of the detailed conversations. It fell between three and four stars.
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Previously unpublished Golden-age mystery featuring Johnny and Sally Heldar. Johnny’s cousin comes to him for help when his fiancee becomes a suspect in the murder of her employer, a rather unsavory blackmailer and diabolism enthusiast. Well-plotted and a lot of fun.
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1956 Amateur sleuths Sally and Johnny Heldar become involved in a murder case when their cousin Tim asks for their help when his fiancée, Prue's, employer has been discovered shot, and she has become a suspect. The case is complicated by the lies they are told, blackmail, and wartime treachery in France.
An entertaining and well-written crime story with its likeable two main characters.
An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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‘What are you going to do this afternoon?’

England, 1950s. Sally and Johnny Heldar envisaged a quiet weekend with their infant son Peter, when a telephone call from Johnny’s cousin Tim interrupts. His fiancée, Prudence Thorpe, has broken off their engagement after becoming a suspect in the murder of her employer. Tim is sure that Prue is innocent, and seeks the help of the Heldars, accomplished amateur sleuths, to find out the truth. 

Prue’s employer, Frodsham, was murdered in the home he shared with his elderly mother and his manservant. It quickly becomes apparent that a few people had both a motive to murder Frodsham as well as the opportunity. Could it have been Prue? After all, she wrote a letter on Frodsham’s behalf which could have been construed as blackmail. What about the woman with whom Frodsham was having an affair? Or that tall thin man seen in the vicinity? And what information is Frodsham’s mother withholding? 

'People who get mixed up in murder cases must expect to be bothered.'

Inspector Innes from Scotland Yard is leading the official investigation, and he and Johnny Heldar quickly discover that nothing about this murder seems straightforward. Blackmail, an affair, a mystery around Frodsham’s half-brother, and certain events during the war each need to be considered. A carefully constructed and well-written Golden Age mystery from beginning to end.

This is the second of Ms Hamilton’s Sally and Johnny Heldar Mysteries I have read, and I was delighted to read that several previously unpublished manuscripts have been discovered. ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’ is the first of these to be published, and I will eagerly await the rest.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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#TheManWhoWasntThere #NetGalley 
Thanks to NetGalley for introducing me to this engaging mystery. The Heldar's are delightful characters. I look forward to reading more of them. In this first mystery, I especially liked the foreword by the author's nephew.
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This is a newly published story written by Hamilton probably written in the 1950's.

Johnny's cousin Tim calls; Tim wants to marry Prue, but she has some kind of trouble. She has been secretary to Frodsham, who has been murdered, and the police think she might be involved. Johnny and Sally agree to help. It seems that Frodsham was sleeping with a married female neighbor, and blackmailing another. Frodsham and his mother have moved to England from France after the war, and Frodsham was involved with the Resistance during the war, and may have made some enemies.

The husband of the woman who was involved with Frodsham disappears early in the case. When someone seems to be trying to kill Prue, they realize she must know something she isn't aware of.
Johnny and Sally need to find the murderer before he commits another murder. The book keeps the reader guessing, and is a great classic crime.
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"The Man Who Wasn't There" is a mystery that was written in 1956 and set in England. It's the third in a series, but it works as a stand-alone. This was a clue-based puzzle mystery. Johnny (who is helped by his wife) used logic to puzzle out the solution. They made sure that anyone who came to them with information also gave it to the police. Much of the story was interviews, so the main characters were barely developed. They're likable people, but little was told about them outside of the crime. There were several suspects that could have murdered the victim. I was able to guess whodunit near the end and even the twist before it was revealed, but I was uncertain before then. There was no sex. There were only a few uses of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting puzzle mystery.
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A classic British mystery. 
Johnny and Sally Heldar are a convincing, nice couple of investigators.
The plot of this book is quite interesting, but at some points is not completely satisfactory.
Probably, I would like to read more about this author.
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