Answer in the Negative
by Henrietta Hamilton
I love classic crime movies and books so was delighted when I was asked to join Crime Classics Review Club. I was sent a digital copy of a book that was first published in 1959. Agora Books is reprinting old classic mysteries as part of their Uncrowned Queens of Crime series. I was asked to write an honest review about this book in exchange for receiving it.
Answer in the Negative is a classic British mystery featuring amateur sleuths Johnny and Sally Heldar. This is apparently the second book in this series because in this book something is mentioned about a body being found in Johnny’s antiquarian book shop and people recognize them as sleuths.
Johnny and Sally are visited by a dear friend Toby Lorn who is a supervisor at the National Press Archives on Fleet Street. He is concerned because one of his archive assistants, Frank Morningside, has been receiving nasty poison pen notes and he has also been the victim of mean practical jokes.These things seem to be escalating and Toby asks Johnny to investigate because they aren’t able to find the culprit. Johnny is the main sleuth but Sally helps him and they agree to come to the National Archives posing as researchers to watch the employees and try to determine who is writing these nasty notes and leaving them in Frank’s office.
But things take a deadly turn when someone is murdered by a box of glass negatives that was rigged to fall on his head when he opened a door. Then there is another murder. Scotland Yard is called in to investigate but Johnny and Sally are on the case, too. The murderer must be someone working in the National Archives so they begin their investigation trying to rule out the many suspects.
Murder in the Negative started out slow for me, picked up a little in the middle and I stayed with it long enough to finish it. I had a suspicion about who the murderer might be but was surprised by some of the twists in the book.This book is a product of its time as something is said about Sally having to get permission from Johnny and they are constantly smoking but I love the 1950’s time period and the British setting with drizzle, pubs, a no nonsense nanny and other interesting characters. Johnny rarely went to his book shop so that left plenty of time for them to investigate the murders.
The setting at the National Archives was interesting and I learned some things about how negatives and newspaper clipping were archived and retrieved during that era. Sally and Johnny aren’t in the same league as Nick and Nora Charles but they are a likable crime solving couple. Overall, I found Murder in the Negative to be an enjoyable reading experience.
Thanks to Agora Books, Crime Classics and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this book.