‘The Best Man To Die’ is Ruth Rendell’s 4th Inspector Wexford novel. Written in 1969, it is a bit dated in some respects, but another step in the building of the Wexford character, his family and his work colleagues.
Jack Pertwee is having a stag party at his local pub. Most of the darts club is there, but his best man – Charlie Hatton arrives late. Charlie is a lowly paid truck driver, but when he finally arrives at the party he buys everyone double scotches and flashes around lots of money. While walking home from the party, Charlie is brutally murdered.
Reg Wexford and his colleague Mike Burden have no shortage of suspects for Charlie’s murder. He was an unpleasant man, constantly putting others down. Wexford immediately focuses of his money. He has been spending up big lately – much more than would be possible on a truck driver’s income.
Meanwhile, Mrs Fanshawe has just woken from a coma. She was in a car wreck where her husband and daughter were killed. Now six weeks later, she is insistent that her daughter wasn’t in the car. So, who was the woman that was initially identified as 20 year old Nora Fanshawe?
The two cases gradually merge together until Wexford, in a moment of enforced quietness, is able to come up with an answer to both of the mysteries.
In some ways it is surprising that the late 1960s were still so class conscious. In other ways, I wonder how much things have really changed.
This was quite a gentle mystery – much more typical of the times than we would generally come across today. But it was still very enjoyable and it added more pieces to the life and career of Reg Wexford.
I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series – ‘A Guilty Thing Surprised’.
Book Published 1969