“One murder has already been committed and they will not stop at another.”
At the last minute, Kyra Brake changes her mind about driving into town with her mother. “Tell Mother to go without me,” she tells the chauffeur. Kyra’s words come true, in the worst way imaginable. The car crashes only minutes later; Helen Brake will not survive her injuries.
Her mother’s death leaves Kyra overwhelmed by guilt and grief. It also leaves her very wealthy, and very alone. Maybe Kyra won’t have to live much longer without her mother after all.
Never Say Die is a well-executed, highly conventional suspense novel. There’s nothing really wrong with it. The opening sequence is deeply unsettling, as Helen Brake’s nurse, Edna Fowler, comes home to her apartment and worries to her friend about some poison that went missing during the Brake case, unaware that, at that very moment, the poison is much closer than either of them can imagine. Beyond that point, however, the story settles into a soothing, familiar pattern that won’t ever jolt the reader too much.
When Kyra receives a mysterious phone call warning that her mother may have been murdered, she finds the idea ridiculous. Helen “would have considered it in the worst possible taste to have enemies.” The more she thinks about it, however, the more she realizes that, while Helen herself may not have provided a motive to kill, her money certainly would. And now Kyra has that money.
It’s a funny thing, she thought, more than anyone else I have always wanted to be an ordinary, everyday sort of person, the old shoe type, and I’ve never been able to and it’s always been because of the money. And if now we have a murder on our hands, although how I cannot comprehend, it, too, will be because of the money. Because my grandfather happened to make a lot of it and left it all to my father and to me. Money made a difference, changed everything around.
Her first instinct is to barricade herself inside the family estate, where surely her family will keep her safe. Her uncle Dudley and beautiful cousin Joyce have lived with the Brakes for ten years. Dudley, a former doctor, lost his profession, and his wife, under murky circumstances. Dudley and Joyce have no money of their own, but, of course, Kyra will always give them a home at Tallwood. More recent additions are Lydia and Spencer, Dudley’s in-laws, who have been so good to Kyra that she feels as if she’s known them all her life—though, in fact, they are practically strangers. Most important of all is Kyra’s fiancé Ford Bennet. Their engagement has to be a secret for now, since he’s older than she is and works for her family business. Some people might not approve of their marriage. The funny thing is that when Ford first began courting Kyra, she wasn’t sure whether he was in love with her, or her cousin Joyce…
Kyra feels completely safe at Tallwood, until she wakes up from a nap with no memory of what she’s been doing or even what day it is.
Could you be Kyra Brake and go to sleep in a familiar chair beside a familiar fire and wake up and find you’d lost your mind while you were sleeping? Did things like that happen to people? Without any warning? She doubted it. She doubted it very much.
As she tries to determine what happened to her, and who might be responsible, Kyra discovers that she doesn’t really trust her relatives at all. Any or all of them could be plotting against her. The high iron gates of Tallwood, which made her feel so secure, aren’t locked to keep evildoers out. They’re to keep Kyra in.
Never Say Die is a modestly successful little thriller that uses a small cast of characters and a tight timeframe to its benefit. Kyra, while she has some wobbly moments, is canny enough to think on her feet. It’s just that there is nothing very surprising or complicated about the plot that unfolds.
Never Say Die is out of print, with few used copies available. It was reprinted as a Detective Book Club volume along with The Bachelors of Broken Hill by Arthur W. Upfield and The Hundredth Door by Rae Foley.