The title is literal; the night before he was due to be best man at his best mate’s wedding, Charlie Hatton is bludgeoned to death with a river stone while on his way home from the pub. But that’s only the start of the mystery. Hatton was a lorry driver who lived beyond his means. It soon becomes apparent that he was party to a couple of recent hijackings, but there’s an influx of cash that doesn’t correspond to any instance of highway robbery. Then there’s Dorothy Fanshawe, sole survivor of the car crash that killed her husband and daughter. Or not - she insists her daughter is alive and in Germany. So who was the girl whose body was found with the wreckage and how did she come to be there? Why can’t Detective Chief Inspector Wexford shake the feeling that the cases are somehow connected? And is it really only coincidence that Charlie Hatton was killed immediately after Dorothy Fanshawe regained consciousness?
It’s probably just as well this book was so short (under 200 pages) because I never really warmed to any of the characters. This was an early book, nearly forty years old; I’m struggling to remember the later Wexford mysteries I’ve read, and whether he was that perpetually cranky in those too. Fortunately once the action got going on the two mystery plots, I had something to entertain me to the end.