Cover Image: At Night to Die

At Night to Die

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Member Reviews

I read one or two books of this series out of order, but I think with this one we have reached the appropriate timeline. Although this book does not have any connection to the previous (apart from the Heldars themselves), I would still recommend reading this in some semblance of order. It is easier to imagine the Heldars as a couple and a team with all the things they have experienced previously because very sparse information is provided about their personal lives during the mystery itself. The foreword continues to add to the fascinating history of how these books are coming to be printed now.

Johnny Heldar receives a letter from a friend requesting professional help. It has nothing to do with his profession as an antique bookseller but his side hobby of solving mysteries. His wife encourages him to take it up, arranges for the kids to be dropped off (this is how I maintain the timeline, the age/presence of the kids) and they set off. As the covers all show, it is Sally Heldar who does a lot of the leg work. Her husband is a steady man of few words. He forms an idea in his head with all the combinations possible and they work it out slowly. Although, when a call to action comes, he brings his secret training and helps, making him quite intriguing.

The case here is of an old man who fell to his death, the situation was deemed an accident but some beg to differ. There is also a heightened interest in the library of the man’s house. The heir is young and has some support but needs to get to the bottom of things to proceed with his life. There were a few more twists in this than I thought possible. I guessed the main perpetrator quite early on but was misled in between to think again. I like it when that happens, and this is why I liked this book better than its predecessor.

I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my reading of this and other books by the author.
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I’ve read all the Sally and Johnny Heldar books published (or re-published) by Agora Books and I think this Scottish murder mystery might be the best yet. 

Was the old Laird murdered and is the new teenaged Laird in danger from the dodgy antiques dealer snooping around the ancestral home? The Heldars are on the case!

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.
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Thanks to Agora Books for a review copy.
Henrietta Hamilton is one of the true gems in Agora’s ongoing Uncrowned Queens of Crime series and it is so nice that an additional five, originally unpublished stories in the Sally and Johnny Heldar series are now being made available.
In this story the couple are invited to Scotland to investigate a death which has officially been ruled an accident but which the locals suspect may have been more sinister. So begins a tale set in beautiful countryside around an old manor house in which a long forgotten secret may be concealed.
Henrietta Hamilton keeps the action moving along nicely and story is always lively. The plot is not complex and is easy to follow, for once I was actually ahead of the Heldars in identifying the villain of the piece, but it was no less enjoyable for that. Hamilton is always excellent at developing a sense of place in her writing and the scenes can be easily brought to mind giving an almost cinematic feel to the book. In fact this story could, I think, easily be developed into a TV series with very few changes to the plot.
Even though the villain was clearly signalled, the nature of the secret for which lives were risked is not so obvious and there are a couple of little twists at the end which were a surprise. I found the final revelation about the villain to be a little sinister and this gave this hitherto rather cosy mystery a nice jolt upon which to end.
I would recommend any of the Sally and Johnny Heldar stories to those who enjoy a well written, relatively cosy Golden Age Mystery without too many complications or psychological insights. Henrietta Hamilton’s work is entertainment from a simpler age which is well worth a visit.
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When the Laird Charles Buchanan dies suspiciously in his remote mansion-house in rural Scotland, the Heldars step in to help investigate. But as they explore the House of Affray, Sally and Johnny uncover more mysteries and family secrets than they anticipated. This is a republication of a Golden Era of Mysteries book and the 4th in a series involving Sally and Johnny Heldar. The two of them make a brilliant and clever crime-solving couple. I loved the family curse aspect of this story and the suspense leading up to the solution built nicely. I am hoping more of these are republished for a whole new generation of readers to enjoy. Thank you NetGalley for the advanced readers copy for review.
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Scottish author Henrietta Hamilton wrote with charming elegance. Every scene is described in observant detail and evocative of time and place. She deserves to be more widely read and it is good that there are more books to come.
With echoes of John Buchan's classic The Thirty-Nine Steps the author takes her two amateur investigators - Sally and Johnny Heldar - to the Highlands of Scotland in an intense and clever plot. Her characters are beautifully drawn and full of empathy. This is classic crime fiction at its very best.
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What a delicious fictional discovery! 

My first encounter with Henrietta Hamilton's world of criminal shenanigans was hugely entertaining, elegantly written (very British) and blessed with a cast of unforgettable characters. 

A Scottish affair involving a potential murder, a 17th treasure with a Jacobite connection, the beautiful sights & sounds of the great city of Edinburgh & its surroundings, and a  brillant sleuthing couple that will untangle its many unexpected twists and turns....

Unputdownable from start to finish, this compelling whodunit deserves to find a new & faithful readership more than 60 years after its original publication👍👍

Many thanks to Netgalley and Agora Books for this terrific ARC
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Back up to the standard of The Two Hundred Ghost I think for classic crime author Henrietta Hamilton in this novel, At Night To Die, the fourth (yes, I've missed one) of her Johnny and Sally Heldar mystery series. In this story, a phone call from a friend sees the detecting duo make their way to a remote Highlands manor house where the elderly Laird may, or may not, recently have been murdered. Of course if there hadn't been any crime committed then At Night To Die would be a much shorter book!

I particularly liked Hamilton's portraits of the Highlands around the village of Affray, and the way in which she contrasts that rural environment with Edinburgh's city streets. The characters are fun too. Sally, again, has a less active role than Johnny, but I didn't get the sense of her being sidelined in the same way as in The Man Who Wasn't There. Instead, while always behaving appropriately for a 1950s married woman, she often drives discussions and prompts Johnny to consider alternative angles. Interestingly, although the story is set fifteen years after the end of the Second World War, there are indications that several of the male characters are still very much influenced by their wartime roles and also that, looking further back in time, that Charles Stuart's defeat at Culloden is still keenly felt. Having read a number of twenty-first century Balkan and African novels set in the aftermath of wars, I recognised a similar trauma undercurrent.

The mystery itself was fun to unravel and, I thought, fairly easy because even I managed to guess most of it correctly before we readers were told. I hope Agora keeps uncovering and republishing Henrietta Hamilton's novels because I am happy to have the opportunity to enjoy the series.
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A friend contacts the Heldars about a death of a Scottish Laird that occurred some months earlier. Johnny Heldar's friend Colin feels something is wrong, and it's possible the death was not due to an accident. Johnny and Sally Heldar head out to a picturesque  town in rural Scotland, and meet the Laird's heir, a well-spoken and mature adolescent, Malcolm Bushanan. 

The Heldars carefuly look over the Laird's house, and conclude that the Laird was murdered, rather than falling accidentally to his death.

Soon after the Heldars arrive, a competitor of theirs shows up and begins pestering Malcolm to assess the library in his ancestral home. Johnny and Sally are not happy to find their rival in the town, as he's known to be unscrupulous, and even purportedly fraudulent in his approach to securing antiques from old homes. 

There's also rumour of a kingly treasure in the former Laird's house, and the competitor, though mum about it, is clearly after it.


This was considerably more enjoyable than I expected. The story moved well, and I liked the characters. I was particularly impressed with Henrietta Hamilton's portrayal of young Malcolm, who had a good head on his shoulders, and shows how seriously he takes his new role as Laird. 
The Heldars were also well characterized: pleasant, intelligent, and well-versed in their field. 

I was a little dubious about how much Johnny was able to glean about the perpetrator and their motives, based on the evidence the author provided, but I was willing to let that pass, as this book kept me entertained, and now wanting to read other books about this pair of antiquarian book dealers/detectives.

Thank you to Netgalley and to Agora Books for this ARC in exchange for my review.
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I've loved every single one of Henrietta Hamilton's Sally and Johnny Heldar mysteries and this one is no exception. Brilliantly written with great contemporary details of Edinburgh and also the fictional House of Affray. This is not so much about the mystery itself, but the characters and the way the story moves on. There's something very fresh and comforting about this story - it's like a grown up Enid Blyton mystery.
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I’ve just finished the latest Henrietta Hamilton to be re-published by Agora Books: At Night to Die. It was first published in 1959 and I really really cannot understand why it hasn’t been in print ever since as I consider it the best so far. It features her series characters, Sally & Johnny Heldar. Johnny works at his family firm of antiquarian booksellers, where he met and wooed Sally. Since then, they have been involved in various murders.

This latest case sees 16-year-old Malcolm Buchanan inheriting his grandfather’s baronetcy and Lairdship in the Highlands. Malcolm & the Heldars have mutual friends – Colin & Sheila Kennedy – who run a pub near Malcolm’s C17th manor house. There is some suspicion over the late Laird’s death and the Kennedys invite Sally & Johnny to stay at the pub and investigate. The Buchanans have a long pedigree which involves a C19th mad woman in the attic who now haunts the house. It appears they also have a secret so valuable that it could drive someone to murder – but Malcolm doesn’t know it might be.

The Highland people, scenery and atmosphere are well-drawn with young Sir Malcolm demonstrating maturity well beyond his years, although Hamilton never lets him become unbelievable. I confess that I did guess who the villain was long before the end but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book at all.

It definitely has a period flavour with everyone smoking and luggage being sent ahead by train, although there I mention of flying between London and Inverallan, which I thought was quite modern! The one aspect of this which grates upon the modern ear is Johnny & Sally’s casual dismissal of their two children and Nanny to stay with a grandmother for a couple of weeks or so.

#AtNighttoDie #NetGalley.
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The Heldars receive a letter from their Scotland friend Colin Kennedy.  Although they have met only 3 times, twice with the Heldars on fishing holidays at the Affray Inn, and once the past winter when Sheila and Colin came to visit them.  Colin's letter asks them to come to Scotland to help find out what happened to their friend who died under suspicious circumstances.  Five days later, the Heldars are in Scotland at the Affray Inn.  In addition to the Kennedy family, they meet Malcolm, the grandson of the Laird, Sir Charles, and find out that it is Sir Charles whose murder they are to solve.  

Dr. Ruthwell arrives for dinner.  After dinner Colin explains the Laird's family history.  Malcolm is the son of the 3rd son of the Laird.  The two older sons died early, the oldest while at Oxford, and the 2nd son in the war.  The third son is also dead, but married an actress, and they had Malcolm who is now the 17 year old heir.  Malcolm's mother is now remarried.  The Laird had been paying for Malcolm's education, and Malcolm has spent most of his time away from school with the Laird.  A few months before, the Laird had been found dead at the foot of the stairs.  Dr. Ruthwell tells them he had a severe blow on his head with the wound smaller than what would come from one of the stairs, and there were no traces of blood near the body which showed it had probably been moved.  When Malcolm came for the funeral, he wanted to stay at his house, and Colin went with him.  They found the poker which should have been in Malcolm's room in the Laird's room (which never had a poker).  This makes them think that the killer put it back in the wrong room.

Although they keep investigating, it's difficult to find out more.  However, a shady bookdealer who Sally and Johnny know is hanging around trying to get to the Laird's library.  They find he was abroad when the Laird was killed, but the man keeps coming back, and they keep watching him.  As Malcolm is about to go back to school, and Sally and Johnny about to give up, they all go by way of Edinburgh.  Johnny has arranged to talk with an older relative about family secrets before Sally and Johnny see him off on the train.  However, the man Malcolm talked with was an actor, and Malcolm disappears, and the real relative is knocked by a car and is in critical care in the hospital.  From here on, things get very exciting, and kidnappers get a little careless!  

This is a great classic British crime story!
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For me this is the best of the Sally and Johnny Heldar Mysteries, so far.

The settings, characterisation and dialogue are what made it for me as I found the "whodunnit" and "why" aspects of the plot not overly difficult to fathom. Here that did not much matter, as the flow of the writing propelled me happily on to the denouement.

The Scottish Highlands and 1950s Edinburgh are really well-evoked, The author lived in Edinburgh later in life and, incidentally, was friendly and exchanged books with Elizabeth Ferrars whose husband was Professor of Botany at the University.

The characterisation is vivid and Hamilton is good at depicting children and young adults. Here the portrayal of the young laird, Sir Malcolm Buchanan, was particularly well-done.

The author is also hot on dialogue which  comes over as appropriate and unforced, a nice change in a novel of detection. 

The plot is a heady mix of burglary, murder, attempted murder and kidnapping, with some Jacobite and family history and legend thrown in. For fans of the genre, this is a bibliomystery, not only because of the Heldars' background in antiquarian books, but also because part of  the solution lies in
some old books.

Recommendable. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Agora Books for the digital review copy.
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Wow, this was a great addition to the series of the Heldars. It has a touch of the Baskeville in it with a wicked family curse and other tips of the hat to a few other classic mysteries. Very well done and extremely recommended.
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The fourth in the Sally and Johnny Heldar series, At Night to Die is set in enchanting Scotland.  Sally and Johnny like nothing better than to sleuth which just happens to be what is needed after Laird Charles Buchanan is discovered dead.  They flit through the stunning countryside (lovely descriptions take me back instantly to several places mentioned) and are determined to use their mental adroitness to flush out the culprit.  Other characters are intrigued by the whole thing, too, and wish to get their fingers dirty.  Secrets swirl about like mist and the police are unsuccessful and, frankly, untrustworthy, so they rely on themselves.  The story reminds me of a castle's stone twisty staircase...  

Written with wit and brilliance, Henrietta Hamilton (pseudonym for Hester Denne Shepherd) was a fabulous, fabulously compelling author.  She clearly drew on her WWII experience as she penned her Golden Era books (called that for very good reason).  She had a knack for storytelling which fills me with nostalgia.

Mystery readers, particularly those who hanker after the writing of this era, please read this series.  Well worth it.

My sincere thank you to Agora Books and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this wonderful book.  Republishing Golden Era books is an important and honourable endeavour and fills me with gratitude.
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Henrietta Hamilton at her best! A gripping, twisty and highly entertaining story. 
I read it as fast as I could and loved to read this excellent story. 
There's a lot going on, twists and surprises. I loved the big reveal (that surprised me) and the end.
Ms Hamilton could surely write gripping plot and this is one of her best.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Another Clever Puzzle At Its’ Heart....
The fourth in the Sally and Johnny Heldar series of mysteries and the duo are off to Scotland at the bequest of friends concerned about a local death which seems suspicious. The Laird Charles Buchanan has passed away and all is not well surrounding the circumstances of his death. When they arrive it becomes clear that things are afoot within the big house. This puzzle is about to get complicated. The sometime amateur sleuths, Sally and Johnny, are both likeable and amenable and make an enjoyable duo. Hugely enjoyable classic crime with another clever puzzle at its’ heart, fully entertaining with well drawn characters and an engaging plot. A very worthy reissue from Agora Books (and part of their ‘Uncrowned Queens of Crime’ series). Highly recommended.
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