Cover Image: The Man Who Wasn't There

The Man Who Wasn't There

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Adolphe Frodsham, half French, financially wealthy and morally bankrupt, has been found dead in his library, shot through the heart. The amateur investigative skills of Johnny and Sally Heldar are called upon by Tim Heldar, Johnny's cousin, on behalf of Tim's almost-fiancee Prue. She has been Frodsham's secretary for several months, assisting him with the research and typing of a book on diabolism. Official suspicion has fallen heavily on her, and Tim believes Johnny and Sally can discover the truth and clear her.

But is she in the clear? Is she really as naive and kind-hearted as she seems? Or is the guilty person Mrs. Addleston, Frodsham's mistress? Or her irate husband? Or Mrs. Nantwich, who acknowledges that Frodsham has been blackmailing her but refuses to reveal why? Or Frodsham's illegitimate and disreputable half-brother, who is the chief beneficiary in Frodsham's will but who - if he is still alive - is believed to be in hiding in France, wanted for murder. Can the tall dark stranger alleged to have been seen near the house be Frodsham's killer, avenging a young woman whom Frodsham may have betrayed to her death in their days in the French Resistance (the novel appears to be set in the early 1950s)?

I enjoyed the book; however, I rate it at 4 stars instead of 5. The story is somewhat slow to start, and at places the plot relies a bit too much on coincidence or on deductions that have not been adequately prepared for (as, for instance, when Johnny figures out how the killer established an apparently sound alibi. A casual preparatory phrase could have been inserted in such a way as not to draw the reader's attention, but to make Johnny's later correct guess more plausible.) 

On the plus side, Sally and Johnny are likeable, and the various characters have appeal and dimensionality (this improves as the story progresses). The author handles the occasional longish dialogue with realism, allowing the speakers to insert side remarks of the "Pass the butter, please" type into conversations which elucidate aspects of the suspects or or past events.

When more of Henrietta Hamilton's currently unpublished mysteries become available, I look forward to reading them.

This review has been submitted to for posting.
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I am a fan of 'old-fashioned' mysteries, and this one hit all the right notes.  It's definitely not groundbreaking, but it is extremely entertaining, and the twist was only obvious at the end.  I enjoyed it very much, and think it would make a terrific beach/vacation read.
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A previously unpublished Henrietta Hamilton book from her Sally and Johnny Heldar mystery series. It comes with an introduction from the authors nephew Nick Shepherd. Henrietta had 4 novels published but there are typed manuscripts of 13 other books which were found after her death, of which 4 are Heldar mysteries. Of the books that were previously published they were between 1956-59. but the author seems to have kept writing until 64/65. Changing tastes are given as the reason why her books were no longer accepted for publishing but luckily for us her manuscripts survived and Agora Books are now publishing the collection for a new audience that likes golden age books. 
Johnny's cousin Tim finds himself in a pickle: his fiance Prue has reneged on their engagement after becoming a suspect in the murder of her employer. Tim pleads with the Heldars to clear Prue's name but it is a perplexing case, There are several suspects but motives seem thin on the ground. There is Mrs Addleston who was reported to be having an affair with the dead man. Then there is her husband Mr Addleston. Mrs Nantwich was being blackmailed by the dead man, Frodsham. Her husband may have killed Frodsham to extricate his wife. The victims mother asks the Heldars after the inquest to help solve the murder and gives them lots of information but always seems to be holding something back. His servant Jules was out at the cinema the night of the murder and came over from France with Frodsham and his mother and worked in the Resistance with Frodsham during the war.
There is talk of a half brother wanted for murder but now the main beneficiary in Frodsham's will. A girl in the Resistance was captured and killed during the war and it is suspected it was due to information being passed by someone in the Resistance so revenge may be a motive. There are plenty of suspects and a few attempts made on Prue's life but the Heldars are still a bit suspicious of Prue so she is not fully off the suspect list either.
It was an enjoyable story, well written and the explanation of how the murder was committed was well done. The only thing that really ages the book for me is the notion of an 18/19 year old getting engaged after a few months of knowing someone. But if you can suspend belief over that then then the rest of the story flows quite well and is enjoyable. I look forward to reading the rest of the unpublished manuscripts in time.
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This ARC was provided to me via Kindle by Agora and #NetGalley for my honest opinion. 

Lovely vintage mystery featuring quaint sleuths in Sally and Johnny. The Man Who Wasn’t There will have you wanting more from this series.
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Having read and enjoyed Henrietta Hamilton’s three available mysteries on Agora Books’ Uncrowned Queens Of Crime list featuring the very appealing young couple Sally and Johnny Heldar, I was pleased to find that Hamilton’s family had come across some previously unpublished works and Agora are planning to publish six over the coming year.
The Man Who Wasn’t There is the first of the six newly discovered manuscripts  to be released and what a treat it is. 
Johnny’s cousin Tim is engaged to the lovely Prue who finds herself chief suspect in a murder case involving the shooting of her boss, Frenchman Adolphe Frodsham at home in his study. Frodsham’s own mother is so alarmed by this that she calls in Johnny and Sally to help.
This mystery has a good range of suspects and motives to pick from including a long lost criminal brother and various mistresses of Adolphe and their husbands as well as a shady past with the French Resistance during the war. The police don’t feature too much and are amiable about Sally and Johnny’s investigations when they are mentioned. A twist at the end had me totally wrong footed about the identity of the murderer which I always enjoy.
All in all this is a welcome addition to my collection of classic crime and I eagerly await the other five.
Thanks to Agora Books and Netgalley for the ARC.
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Sally and Johnny Heldar have helped solved mysteries before, so when the woman that Johnny’s cousin Tim wants to marry finds herself caught up in a murder case, it’s only natural that Tim turns to them for help. Prue’s employer has been murdered and as a result she’s called off their engagement. Tim is desperate for Sally and Johnny to clear Prue’s name and win her back for him; but the more they investigate, the more complicated the mystery gets, with infidelity and blackmail and wartime treachery to contend with.

I read a previous Heldar mystery, Answer in the Negative, last year and really enjoyed it. I like Sally and Johnny as characters in both books - they have a nice relationship where they both get to do investigating. This is a previously unpublished entry in the series that the author’s nephew discovered in a stash of manuscripts.  It’s not known when exactly this was written, but I would guess around the time that it was set - which is the early 1950s. The introduction says it went unpublished because tastes changed, which makes me sad because it’s too good to have only come to light now.

I’ve read a lot of mysteries with roots in the First World War and a lot set in the Wars but not a lot in set in the fifties with links to the Second World War. So this is a nice change. It’s also interestingly twisty, but follows the rules that the clues are there if you know where to look. On the basis of this, I’m hoping that more of the unpublished Heldar books find their way into the light soon.
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This was a fun read. Like most vintage fiction it is a little postcard from the past. A female suspect`s actions can't be traced because of course she wore gloves all the time she was in public. It is a solidly good puzzle, with a sexualy harassing boss, a man who was in the French resistance, a missing heir, a young couple in love,, and an out of wedlock child grown to manhood. This book is comfort food, a good solid mystery.
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After Hester Denne Shepherd aka Henrietta Hamilton died in 1995, her nephews found the unpublished manuscripts of 13 books including four which feature her detective duo,  the Heldars. This is the first of those to be published, and is designated the third in the series.

I have read the three already reissued by Agora Books and found them entertaining and easy-to-read. This was a little different.

While the characterisation was fresh and vivid, I thought that the plot was rather slight to sustain  even  a fairly short novel. There were red herring aplenty, the murdered man being a blackmailer, a philanderer and a former member of the French Resistance, as well as extremely wealthy, made sure of that. However, much of the book is taken up with slightly wearing discussions and  speculations about, and rehashing of, what the obvious suspects did  on the night of the murder.

For intrepid GAD readers, the murderer and motive were not  too hard to spot, although the cracking of an alibi depended on a detail not revealed until late on.

Despite my reservations, I can recommend this to lovers of the  traditional, well-written detective novel. I just found it slightly harder going than the others.

3.25 stars. 

Thank you to Crime Classics Advance Readers Club for the digital review copy.
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Delightful Duo….
Getting mixed up in a murder investigation is par of the course for the sometime amateur sleuths, Sally and Johnny Heldar. Here is no exception when they intervene on behalf of their, possibly hapless, cousin Tim. 
The Heldars are both likeable and amenable and make an enjoyable, delightful sleuthing duo. Hugely enjoyable classic crime, fully entertaining with well drawn characters and an engaging plot. A very worthy publication from Agora Books (and part of their ‘Uncrowned Queens of Crime’ series). Highly recommended as is the whole of this series. Top class.
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This mystery from the 1950s features a young married couple as amateur sleuths.  Apparently, the husband or both of them are involved in the book trade.  The author assumed her readers had read the 2 previous books in the series and gave few details about her recurring characters.  The murder occurs fairly soon and the plot mostly involves trying to determine which characters were on the scene at the time of the murder.  The sleuths soon learn that there was a constant stream of suspects in and out of the murdered victim’s house, as is often the case in who-done-it novels.  In this novel, the tracking of suspects is not particularly interesting.  The author does do a good job of providing suspects with plausible motives and the solution to the crime is interesting.  I found the characterization weak.  The young husband is named Johnny Heldar and the author wants us to believe the Heldars are a colorful family.  This didn’t come across.  Overall, there’s nothing to distinguish this work from countless other mysteries of the period.
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I've read the three Henrietta Hamilton mysteries with Johnnie and Sally Heldar, and I am absotuely thrilled to find there are six more unpublished manuscripts to come. If they are all going to be like this one I am very satisfied. The same excellent writing as the first, with great detail from the 1950s. Lovely characterisation, very evocative of London in the years immediately after the Second World War. A great read. I'm so pleased Agora Books are publishing these.
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I was so excited when I heard tat some unpublished novels in the Johnny and Sally Heldar series had been found.  I thoroughly enjoyed the four I already had and had often wished that Henrietta Hamilton had been more prolific.  And then it transpired that she had!  I did approach the Man Who Wasn't There with some trepidation.  Would it be as good as the books published in the author's lifetime.  However, I needn't have worried.  

The plot centres round Tim Heldar, Johnny's cousin, and his on-off fiancee Prue.  Her somewhat unpleasant employer is found murdered on an evening when he had received a number of visitors and various people, including Prue, were noticed in the immediate area of his house.  Virtually all of these people had motives for murder but there is little evidence.  Johnny is asked by both Tim and the victim's mother to help.

One of the things I like most about these books is that the police are firmly in control of the investigation.  Johnny is always clear that anything he and Sally discover must be reported to the senior officer who may or may not reciprocate.  And there is never any suggestion that the police are inept and need the Heldars' help.  I must confess that I also enjoy the antiquarian bookshop background and I was sorry that it didn't feature more in this novel.  But that's a minor issue.  The Man Who Wasn't There is excellent and I am eagerly awaiting publication of the other old-new titles.
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3.5 stars

Very readable recently discovered mystery from the 50s featuring appealing married couple Johnny and Sally Heldar. They have a reputation as reluctant amateur sleuths and this time around get involved in an odd situation involving Johnny's nephew Tim and his girlfriend. The girlfriend works for a mysterious and somewhat unsavory man who ends up murdered, and she falls under suspicion. 

As is the case in mysteries of this vintage, there are lots of plausible red herrings. The murder victim had been in the French Resistance, but also had possibly betrayed his comrades. He was a minor blackmailer, and was having an affair with a married woman. He was also quite wealthy so his will comes under scrutiny. 

It is refreshing to read a mystery with no romantic angst and Johnny and Sally are solid and communicate very well. There are some machinations with a locked door that are also typical of this era. I enjoyed this mystery and will look for others featuring the Heldars. Thanks to the publisher and to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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I enjoyed this never-before-published 1950s murder mystery in the Sally and Johnny Heldar series. There were many plausible suspects and the ending was satisfying.

I do worry about the baby being always foisted on a babysitter, although I suppose it’s better than putting him in the line of fire of a desperate murderer.

More please!

Thanks to the author’s family, publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.
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Occurring in the early 1950s in London, The Man Who Wasn't There is a classic Golden Age mystery designed to challenge the reader to figure out who done it. The principal characters are Frenchmen who were resistance fighters  in  World War II and emigrated to London after the fighting was over.  One of the fighters was a despicable person living with his mother in a grand mansion who is murdered late one evening when his mother and servants are all out.  Prudence, a recently hired bilingual French/English secretary, comes under suspicion and her boyfriend Tim jumps in to protect her. knowing his cousin Johnny Heldar has provided assistance to the police on multiple occasions,  Tim recruits Johnny and his wife Sally as investigators. As the story progresses we learn there were more and more visitors to the house that night who might have committed the crime.  The author presents all the facts so the reader can guess the identity of the murderer, but some of the joy of reading a good mystery is lost because of insufficient background on people and places.  There's no real details on what life in London was like in the post war years and the effects on the people living there.  My less than stellar rating reflects this weakness. The book came off like a intriguing jigsaw puzzle but with pieces missing that lessened my enjoyment of the reading experience.
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The Man Who Wasn't There is a newly published manuscript from Henrietta Hamilton (a pseudonym of Hester Denne Shepherd, 1920-1995) and features her series amateur detectives, Sally and Johnny Heldar. In the Introduction, her nephew, Nick, explains that he and his brother found the typed manuscripts of thirteen unpublished novels after Denne died, including four featuring the Heldars. One wonders why the book wasn’t published in Denne’s lifetime. Was it turned down by her publisher? Did she not submit it for publication?

I have enjoyed the three Heldar books that Agora have republished in the last eighteen months and my concern was that this one had been declined in the 1950s/60s by her original publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, for good reasons. I was worried that this “new” book would be a failure and my high opinion of Henrietta Hamilton’s work would be diminished. No, it’s not a failure. I don’t rate it as highly as The Two Hundred Ghost, the first in the series, but no author can be on peak form in every single work.

Johnny’s cousin, Tim, has fallen in love - but his girlfriend, Prue, worked for an unpleasant man, Frodsham, who has been murdered. The book details Sally and Johnny’s attempts to identify the murderer and clear Prue’s name. It’s not long before they’re trying to prevent Prue from being murdered too. Their logic is of the “If A did make the phone-call at 9:30 then they must be innocent and that puts B in the frame. But if B couldn’t get from X to Y in the time allowed then they must be innocent and thus A must be lying about the phone-call.” That’s an unfair over-simplification but I hope you get the gist of my point. I’m afraid I’m unconvinced by plots where the author wants the reader so caught up in the characters’ exposition that the reader fails to consider other options as the book progresses. That means I tend to skip over characters’ detailed arguments of this nature – and there did seem to be a lot of that in this book!

I note that Hamilton gives almost no back story to Johnny and Sally. There’s virtually nothing about Johnny’s firm of antiquarian book dealers; his part in it; and how the couple met. Whilst the nature of the firm’s business is quite irrelevant to this story, I wonder if the absence of background was deliberate or careless. In the other Heldar books published to date, the book-dealing and bibliophiles have been central to the plot. Deene Shepherd worked in an antiquarian bookshop and perhaps her love of that job infused her other books with a life that this book doesn’t quite have. My advice to new readers is to read The Two Hundred Ghost, followed by Death At One Blow, before The Man Who Wasn’t There – you’ll enjoy the last one more.

#TheManWhoWasntThere #NetGalley.
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I liked this book even if i found a bit slower and less compelling that the others I read.
I am very happy to learn that we will be able to read some newly discovered books by this author as I really love Sally and John.
The plot is quite complex, events from the present and past can be the motive, lots of red herring and twists.
The mystery is solid, a bit slow paced, and the solution came as a surprise.
i thoroughly enjoyed and can't wait to read the other books.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Set in 1950s England, young couple Sally and Johnny Heldar are contendly at home at their cottage with their baby when an unexpected interruption adds excitement to their domestic gardening day.  Johnny's cousin, Tim, seeks urgent advice regarding his girlfriend, Prue, secretary to cantankerous Frodsham.  She may be complicit in a certain letter.  After agreeing to marry Tim, Prue gives her boss notice.  However, Frodsham is found murdered and Prue is a key suspect so she backs out of the engagement  No wonder Tim is desperate for help!  

Amateur sleuths Johnny and Sally become involved in the case and go about seeking information in their own way and encounter blackmail, betrayal and links to the Resistance.  They discover looks can be deceiving. Inspector Innes from Scotland Yard officially investigates and finds murder is never straightforward, of course.  One by one suspects are eliminated with bends and roadblocks en route to the ending.  Though predictable, this is a fun (and short!) read.  I really enjoy Sally in particular.  The descriptions of Poplar Hall and Willow Walk add to the atmosphere.  

This book is not quite as fetching as others I have read by this author (my favourite so far is The Two Hundred Ghost) but I am itching to read everything by her I can.  I really enjoy her writing style and cleverness.  Still well worth getting lost in something light and cozy.

What really fascinates me is that this is one of 13 manuscripts discovered by relatives of the author and this is the first time this book has been published!  I am grateful the family decided to share their precious find, a very special important piece of personal history.  My sincere thank you to Agora Books and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this book which would appeal to Golden Age readers especially.
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