It's 1929, and Ticky Maltravers is the toast of London high society, adored by everyone—or so it seems, until somebody poisons him over dinner. Now it turns out that numerous people with secrets to hide had every reason to wish him dead. But which of them murdered him? For Freddy Pilkington-Soames, newspaper reporter and man-about-town, the question hits a little too close to home, thanks to an unfortunate drunken encounter with Ticky's corpse which he'd much rather the police didn't find out about—and thanks also to his exasperating mother Cynthia's seeming determination to get herself arrested by tampering with the evidence. But a pretty girl with big blue eyes is demanding his help in solving the mystery, so what can he do but agree? Now all he has to do is hide the wrong clues, find the right ones, and unmask the murderer before the police discover what's really been going on. That ought to be easy enough. If only people didn't keep getting killed…
‘All right, then, but if you didn’t kill him, then who did?’ said Freddy. ‘And why? Who wanted him dead?’
‘Oh, we all wanted him dead, darling,’ she said without thinking.
‘Nothing,’ she said hurriedly. ‘I was just joking.’
‘No you weren’t. What do you mean, you all wanted him dead? I thought you were all terrific pals.’
‘Well, dead is a strong word,’ she said. ‘I mean, that’s probably a little bit of an exaggeration, but he wasn’t the nicest sort, and he did take advantage rather, and I really didn’t have the cash to spare quite often, but he was always very firm and wouldn’t let me off. And I expect if he was doing it with me then he was doing it with everybody—not that anyone’s confessed to it in so many words, naturally, since it’s not the sort of thing one talks about, but I have heard some strong hints—so I suppose it’s always possible that he pushed things a little too far with someone. Perhaps he caught them on a bad day, or—I don’t know—perhaps they couldn’t afford it that week, or something. You know how one can put up with things for a while, then suddenly get sick and tired of it all, and decide that enough’s enough. So if he really didn’t die of a heart attack, then I expect that’s what happened. Do you see?’
‘No,’ said Freddy, although he was beginning to have a sinking feeling. ‘Why were you paying him money?’
Cynthia looked away and said nothing.
‘Mother,’ said Freddy, as the truth dawned. ‘Do you mean to say Ticky was blackmailing you?’