The Will and the Deed by Ellis Peters

published 1960   chapter 8

He came back to the table and stood turning the pages of his magazine, ‘Did you see this? I bought it at Schwechat just before we took off, but I never opened it until this morning. There’s an obituary. Done in a hurry, but it’s good. The pictures must be from the Opera House files…’

There was one, inevitably, as the Marschallin in her third-act splendour, with a waist Susan could have spanned in her two hands, and breasts, half-uncovered, and her own hair dressed in a glittering jewelled tower on her head.

Would you believe,’ said Trevor, ‘that she was 56 when that was taken? Do you know how old Marie Therese was supposed to be? Thirty. And she played that role when she was 22, and she played it when she was 60, and every time magnificently. There was never another like and now there never will be.’

observations: Antonia Byrne, this superstar prima donna opera star, has died at the beginning of the book (of natural causes). Her entourage of family, staff, doctor, lawyer – including, importantly, those who would expect to be her heirs - are all travelling together in a private aeroplane which makes a forced landing in a snowbound alpine village in Switzerland. Everyone is trapped there, the will is read, to general consternation, and murder results. You have to admire the setup. Ellis Peters was a reliable professional – she wrote dozens of murder stories, including her very successful Brother Cadfael series.

This one has some interesting characters, and a complex plot. The opera theme is nicely done – though I was hoping that familiarity with Rosenkavalier would be useful, and it wasn’t. (I’m a big opera fan, but I explained in this blog entry why Rosenkavalier isn’t a favourite.)

Some legal knowledge might be helpful…

The book was covered in the splendid Mysteries in Paradise blog – thanks Kerrie for the tipoff.

Links on the blog: the characters in the annoying Hotel du Lac are in the Swiss mountains, though it is the reader who is trapped there rather than the guests. Opera singers featured in two entries based on the splendid book Prima Donnas.

The picture is of singer Elizabeth Schwarzkopf in costume as the Marschallin.


  1. Moira - Thanks for reminding me both of Kerrie's blog post and of the novel. I always respect an author who 'branches out,' and Edith Pargeter certainly did that. I'm familiar with her Cadfael series, but this one is one I still need to read. I appreciate the reminder of it.


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