Review of Answer in the Negative by Henrietta Hamilton – recently republished

An enjoyable classic British mystery…

Agora Books makes a business of re-issuing older British mysteries, such as Answer in the Negative, which was originally published in 1959.   Although I had never heard of Henrietta Hamilton before being offered an ARC of this title, I tend to like the sort of mysteries where the detectives, whether amateur or official, work through a case: discovering clues, tracking down witnesses, trying out theories, dealing (perhaps) with additional corpses, and eventually figuring out whodunnit.  Answer in the Negative is a nice example of this, and it kept me reading late into the night.

I also enjoyed the window into a period where the family antiquarian book business still left ample time for Johnny to do some amateur detecting, where Nanny took care of the kids so Sally also had ample time to do some amateur detecting, and where Sally and Johnny seemed to do the cooking together by choice rather than fighting over who had to do it.   Although I’m not sure whether this time ever really existed as it’s portrayed, it sounds attractive at least!  Sometimes older books can be a bit off-putting if their values and mores are too out of sync with today.   Answer in the Negative avoided this though, and instead, at least to me, came off just as “gosh, wouldn’t this be nice”. 

Along with a look at a different era, I also enjoyed a look at how photographs and newspaper clippings were handled in the days before computers came along.   (And I’m glad I do have a computer!) Overall, I am a big fan of historical mysteries, and really, Answer in the Negative turns out to be sort of an “unintentional” historical, given that it was written more than six decades ago.  So many of the same things I like about “normal” historical mysteries were things I enjoyed about this book:  the sense of a different time and place, and of different ways of doing things.

All-in-all, I liked Answer in the Negative a lot and hope that Agora produces more e-books from Henrietta Hamilton titles.  My thanks again to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.  And also please keep in mind that I try to fight “star-inflation” a little bit.  I reserve 5 stars for a very few of my most favorite books, ones I’m likely to read and reread time-and-again, and 4 stars is a great rating from me. 

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