Foggy, Foggy Death by Richard and Frances Lockridge (J. B. Lippincott, 1950) is the fourth book in the Inspector Heimrich police procedural series, which consists of 24 books released between 1947 and 1977. Heimrich is part of the New York State Police Criminal Investigation Division, and his bailiwick is Westchester County and its surroundings.
In this early entry some of the themes common to the series are evident. The Lockridges wrote about the friction between newcomers to the heretofore exclusive small towns and wealthy country enclaves outside New York City. The sweeping societal changes wrought by the nation’s participation in World War Two created opportunities for the middle class to buy property in areas previously inaccessible to them. The inevitable clashes of values and priorities, at least in the Lockridge books, often lead to murder.
In this particular title, instead of buying the house next door, the encroaching member of the middle class married into an established Westchester family, much to the dismay of the family matriarch. Scott Bromwell met Marta, a Nebraska native, while he was serving in the Army and married her on impulse. The entire family regrets his decision, as Marta has not adapted to the lifestyle or expectations of Scott’s imperious mother. The family is housebound in late January by a dense cold fog that has lasted for days and the unavoidable confinement exacerbates underlying tensions. Marta goes for a walk to escape and is found hours later facedown in a stream on the property.
This is a classic country house mystery with a limited set of suspects due to the weather conditions. Nearly all of the action takes place on the Bromwell estate and most of it within the house. While the homicide forensics team assesses the area around the stream as well as searches the house, Inspector Heimrich and Sgt. Forniss devote most of their time to interviewing the family, the staff, and some incidental visitors who turn out to have a greater involvement with the family than originally supposed. Because of this strict observance of the country house set-up, there is little action and a great deal of talk.
The books in this series seem generally timeless, probably because of the lack of references to technology or other elements that would place the book firmly in a chronological frame. It is one of the reasons this Lockridge series, rather than the Mr. and Mrs. North books, remains among my favorites.