Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull

Excellent Intentions

Poisoned Pen Press|2 October 2018 |227 pages|e-book |Review copy|2.5*

This edition, published in association with the British Library, has an introduction by Martin Edwards. It was first published in 1938 by Faber and Faber. It’s the second book by Richard  Hull that I’ve read. However, I didn’t think Excellent Intentions was as enjoyable as the first one, The Murder of My Aunt.

Henry Cargate, of Scotney End Hall, died on a train for London, from a heart attack brought on when he inhaled snuff laced with potassium cyanide. He was an unpleasant man, the most disliked person in the village of Scotney End and several people were suspected of murdering him. One of those suspects (who is not named until near the end of the book) was arrested and is on trial for his murder. The potassium cyanide crystals, mixed into Cargate’s snuff had been bought to destroy a wasps’ nest. So, Inspector Fenby’s investigation concentrates on the limited opportunities available for the murderer to add the poison to Cargate’s snuffbox, which he kept in his study.

The book begins as the counsel for the prosecution makes his opening speech and makes his case for the judge and jury. It then follows the trial through its various stages to the verdict and subsequent appeal.

My problem with this book is that it is so very factual and focused on the times that no one was in Cargate’s study, concentrating on four people that Fenby suspected had an opportunity to tamper with the snuff, and on the position of the bottle of potassium cyanide – whether it was on the desk or on the window sill. It’s clever, but it’s also repetitive and very long-winded. But, I liked the twist in the conclusion.

My thanks to the publishers, Poisoned Pen Press, for my review copy via NetGalley.

This is qualifies for the Mount TBR Challenge and for the Calendar of Crime Challenge for September in the category of the author’s birth month.

3 thoughts on “Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull

  1. Thanks, Margaret, for your candor. I really enjoyed The Murder of My Aunt, so I was wondering what you’d think of this one. Hmm…..it sounds as though the focus is an awful lot on alibis and such, rather than on character development. I may read it, because I like Hull’s wit. But I see what you mean about it being different to The Murder of My Aunt.


  2. I recently bought Murder of My Aunt for my Kindle black hole, I gather a lot of people enjoyed it so am looking forward to reading it. Not so sure about this one, not so keen on overly factual stories.


  3. I had exactly the same reaction – loved Murder of My Aunt, but I never enjoy plots that rest so completely on timings and opportunity and so on. I fear I got very bored and skipped quite a bit in the middle. I’d still like to read more of his stuff, although I believe he wasn’t very prolific.


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