Eighteen year old Ben Heckitt and his older sister Kezia live in an English village by the sea. From the old days a gibbet post remains by the water. It’s where pirates and other no goods were hanged.
While Kezia is away, their Uncle Joseph Kervin shows up after almost nineteen years. Ben gives him the best room in the house. Kezia returns and is upset that Kervin is there. She’s never liked him. They hear screams from outside and investigate. They spot local Constable Veller and retired sea Captain Marigold. There’s a man tied to the gibbet post. He’s been strangled. Ben hears the sound of oars.
They go back to tell their uncle. They wake him up. When he hears a description of the man, he faints. The next morning, he’s gone. Ben goes for a walk and runs into Miss Ellingham who lives in a nearby mansion with her servants, including the Hindu Mandhu Khan and her nephew Bryce. Ben looks upon Bryce as a rival for Marigold’s daughter Pepita. They want to know all about the murder.
Edward Cherry of Scotland Yard shows up at Ben and Kezia’s house. He has Ben team up with him. The murdered man is Sol Cousins from London’s East End. Krevins had a couple meetings with him. No one knows why.
Miss Ellingham has been robbed. Missing is a Kang-He vase and two small figures of Hindu Gods. She’s a Doctor. The vase is a valuable gift she got from a rich merchant in India after she cured his daughter. The vase is almost sacred in China and anybody trying to take one out of the country could get a death penalty.
Turns out when she returned home, Miss Ellingham gave an extensive interview to a magazine complete with pictures of the room, the cabinet the vase was in and the vase itself. It’s an easy route for a burglar. She never locked the cabinet.
Cherry and Ben trace Krevins’ movements. He’s up to something. One day Ben runs into Pepita and they eventually find the place where Krevins has been staying. They go inside. Bad move. The two are locked in a second floor room and then taken to a nearby island by Krevins and the innkeeper. After some time on the island the innkeeper leaves. Then Ben spots Mandhu Khan.
Fletcher wrote close to two hundred books, most of them mysteries. This is not one of his best. It’s pace is slow and the payoff isn’t that surprising or interesting. If you’re lucky enough to have a used book store in your area that deals in older hardbacks, they probably have some Fletcher in stock. Skip this one and see if they have “The Middle-Temple Murder (1919). That’s A-One Fletcher.