Georgette Heyer is best know for her Regency romances where her combination of historical detail and witty characterisation won her many fans. She also wrote twelve detective stories; Footsteps in the Dark is the first of these.
Footsteps in the Dark is a very readable and enjoyable volume if you are Heyer fan or otherwise know what to expect. Three siblings inherit an old house, The Priory. Peter, Margaret and Celia together with Celia's barrister husband and an aunt move into the building with the idea of a long vacation. However, things don't go as planned. Things, instead, literally go bump in the night: monk-like ghosts flit around the garden and someone is found dead. Is the explanation supernatural or criminal? Well, no prizes for guessing.
If you start this book expecting cutting edge plot or gritty realism you'll be sorely disappointed. What we have here is escapism criminology. The plot is a little thin, so what keeps you reading, as always with Heyer, is the characterisation, the witty asides, the flashes of realism in relationships. The majority of the book is laden with every cliche from secret passages to bits reminiscent of Mrs Radcliffe's much parodied Mysteries of Udolpho. In fact, so busy with such fussy fancy is the plot that one almost expects Scooby and Shaggy to appear looking for a snack in the castle kitchens. Instead we have unflappable Aunt Lilian who bears a strong resemblance to some of Bertie Wooster's aunts.
This was Heyer's very first detective novel and it shows, but provided you are prepared for all the pseudo-medieval fixtures and fittings, it is still a great duvet read. By the time Heyer wrote her next crime work her husband was a barrister and her plots had improved. So, if you've read this and didn't like her work, do try another as it is not typical. I think my favourite is Detection Unlimited.
This review is crossed posted at the Georgette Heyer Challenge. You might also find the article Georgette Heyer - Queen of Mystery and Suspense by Margaret Rogers of Hessay Books interesting. It is one of the collector's guides listed in the bar on the left.