A man worth more dead than alive….
For Elsa Mallin, it should have been trip to see her old school friend, Mrs. Clarice Klein, at Kilvennan Castle.
But one fateful night, Clarice’s husband Konrad Klein has a deadly accident.
Once a world-famous illusionist known as Konrad Klimax, he has since been dropped from the limelight.
Up until the accident, he was working on a new illusion – one he hoped would make him famous once more – and it seems that it is this latest trick that accidentally killed him.
Whatever it is, it caused Konrad to fall out a window with a sheer drop into the sea below.
But was it really an accident?
Konrad’s body is still missing and as it soon becomes apparent, his life was insured for £200,000.
His fall from grace cost him more than just dignity and it would be easy enough for an illusionist to fake his own death…
Was this his last great trick to the world?
But, if the insurance company suspect suicide, they can refuse to pay out. No body, no proof of accidental death.
With Clarice worried sick they’ll refuse her claim, Elsa asks her husband, David Mallin, and his brusque partner, George, to investigate.
As ex-policeman running their own detective agency, they should put Clarice at ease, but the man from the insurance company, Martin Fisher, is determined to prove it was suicide.
Even in his ‘family’, Konrad is divisive figure. His son Anthony, a magician in his right, thought him insane.
Clarice, though she loved him, bitterly knew he and his assistant Amaryllis – an ex-ballet dance – were having an affair.
Amaryllis herself, while captivated by his magic, was horrified by his latest and mysterious illusion.
And then, just as David and George look like they might make sense of this case, Konrad’s body is found.
Worse, there’s a bullet wound on his corpse. The police say it was being shot that really killed him.
Which raises another question – was Konrad’s death really an accident or was it murder?
Better Dead Than Alive is a thrilling mystery, full of twists and turns.
Roger Ormerod (1920-2005) was a prolific writer of ingenious and densely plotted crime novels – some 35 in all – which were published in the UK and the USA. He lived in Wolverhampton and amongst other things worked as a civil servant and as a Social Security inspector – backgrounds which he made full use of in his fiction, as he did with his hobbies of painting and photography.