A late 1950s Agatha Christie and one not populated by any of her recurring characters (unless I missed something). Sometimes these books unconnected to a series can feel wayward, and sometimes they’re tighter because there’s not a need to follow the patterns established by earlier books. Here, we meet an exceedingly rich and dysfunctional family, who we learn are in some later aftermath of the murder of their matriarch, and the subsequent conviction of that murder by one of the sons. He also died in prison. One evening they are visited by a doctor, who they initially mistake for a journalist, those having been recent and frequent visitors, but when he tells them his story, their life is again upturned. It turns out that on the night of the murder, he gave the convicted son a ride in his car and can establish the otherwise unverified alibi that was would have been crucial to the defense. This doctor then was in a car wreck which left him with amnesia until recent healing brought back memories of that night and subsequent guilt for his unwitting role.
So the case is reopened, and among other things we find out that all the different sons and daughters in the family are adopted, that there are no natural children (to use a clunky phrase) and things are much more complicated than they imagined. Also, because the one son is innocent, someone else in the family must be guilty.
In parts this is a very solid mystery, but it does some sillyness. There’s an obsession with psychological damage that feels very 1950s and the racial politics of the novel are, well, very bad.