The Complete Steel (aka The Stately Home Murder) was actually the third Sloan book. By some people it is considered her best and was…

>> one of 103 mysteries chosen for inclusion in They
Died in Vain: Overlooked, Underappreciated and
Forgotten Mystery Novels, edited by Jim Huang with
contributions from members of the Independent Mystery Booksellers
(from the Rue Morgue interview)

This is not a judgement I would share (obviously
I can’t select my favourite yet as I haven’t read them
all but I know there is at least one more recent book
I prefer) though I can understand the reasons behind
it. As the alternative title suggests this is a classic English
stately home murder, the home in question being Ornum
House, home of the 13th Earl of Ornum, his family
and various retainers. The book opens in characteristically
off-centre Aird style – the voice is provided by Mrs
Pearl Fisher who is enjoying, or suffering, the guided
tour with her 13 year old twins, one of whom, Michael,
discovers a body in a suit of armour which he, disobediently,
opens. The body turns out to be that of the Ornum House
librarian. Cue Sloan and Crosby.
Having said that is not my favourite this is still enormous
fun and Aird has now hit her full stride – the writing is
utterly characteristic; quirky and individual. Ornum is
actually an anagram of Munro, to whom the book is
dedicated (I do not know who Ornum is) but it is also
slightly reminiscent of Omnium a recurrent stately-home
in Innes’ novels. Given that this is a very complete spoof
I actually managed to guess whodidit sometime before the
end (rare for me) but this did not spoil the enjoyment.
And Aird manages, as she so often does, the very delicate
trick of both spoofing and yet being, in her own way, serious.
The opening passages are thus both funny but also, as a veteran
of ‘doing’ various stately homes, very accurate.

(June 2007)