Martyn writes, "There’s never any question of her bringing the murderer to court. And the idea of the law, British or Greek, seems on holiday with our cast of characters. Greece is another country, a sort of Shakespearean Forest of Arden where normal service no longer applies. And as we have felt before, the actions of the present day appear so mean and tawdry compared with the tragic misdeeds and suffering of the past. Marie Hopkinson says near the end,
"Athens isn’t like London… And what’s more, one doesn’t feel the same here about these things – murder, and being suspected of it, and regarding it as something belonging to the Sunday papers, and so on. One remembers all the old stories – one sees things as Homer saw them, and as Aeschylus and Euripides and darling Aristophanes saw them – and they seem – death seems – trivial compared with – I don’t know how to put it – great things looming, and slaves’ lives meaning nothing, and fate hovering – great wings, great mountains, great, clean, sweeping skies."
Martyn remarks that "after the much-delayed arrival of the murder victim, his actual identification is quite perfunctory. No fanfares for Mrs Bradley or any show of horror or hysteria; it is all very dry and matter-of-fact. If anything, we’re given more information about the condition of the box than about her horrific discovery":
She rewarded the husbandman, carried away her treasure trove, and, away from all observation, opened the lid, for the lock had been broken off and the lid lifted easily. Inside the box was the putrefying head of Armstrong. She pushed the box in among some bushes, wrapped up the head in a large coloured handkerchief which she had been wearing as a turban, and walked out on the road which led to Selçuk.
The decapitated snakes and the indifferent disposal of a human head were not the only moments which highlight the savagery of the setting. The sight of Ronald Dick hanging from the bent branch of a young tree, his feet just touching the ground, is a ghoulish, merciless image. Martyn adds that the rental by Sir Rudri Hopkinson of dangerous, half-starved village dogs delivers an additional element of "horror and revulsion. Shaggy, snarling, half-wild but wholly savage, they are ‘black as the hounds of hell’. Dick, insisting that they must be humane, had fed the beasts on pieces of rotting meat. Guessing that Dick may have been the assassin, I imagined that he was gorging them on Armstrong’s dismembered remains…"
Joyka noted that the strangely menacing, rather atypical tone of this story (when compared to the other Mrs Bradley mysteries) made her fear for the elderly investigator in this instance. She writes, "I was really worried when I first read this book that Mrs Bradley was going to be the next victim. She will just not leave Armstrong’s “slaying” alone. And despite the fact that everyone in the group is willing to tell any amount of lies to mislead her – except for the small boys – she does solve the mystery."
Mitchell allows Mrs Bradley to transition from passive observer to active theorist and interviewer in the final three chapters, and I enjoyed the change. It can be legitimately argued by critics that she sometimes doesn't approach fair-play puzzle plotting as her contemporaries do; indeed, she often seems more interested in character, situation, and mood than in carefully clued and alibied scenarios. But this difference in perspective and intent is largely why I respond to Gladys Mitchell's stories far more than those from other GAD authors. I would argue that, in her strongest works, Mitchell can generate great interest and mystification in her plotting and clueing. Chapters 19 and 20 here have an energy and clarity that I found extremely satisfying.
Others take a different view. Martyn, who otherwise greatly enjoyed Come Away, Death, did not like the late-chapter change in the old lady, perhaps due to a genre obligation: "There’s the vague sense of Gladys Mitchell going through the necessary motions when she describes Mrs Bradley’s investigation and solving of the mystery. Having been treated with subtlety throughout the story, Mrs B now begins to ‘cackle’ again. And again. In fact, her cackling gets out of hand, breaking out from page to page."
Joyka, who notes that the author revisits a few of these characters in 1971's Lament for Leto, was surprised to find that this group was chosen for a sequel. "Most of the characters are weak-willed and/or self-centered. Even her schoolmate Marie Hopkinson does not trust Mrs B with the truth."
From Martyn: "It seems that there was indeed a miracle at Epidaurus, and Aesculapius, god of healing, was in fact the white figure who haunted the maze. Yet in spite of everything and all his endeavours, Sir Rudri never saw him. Megan says ‘there’s death in that’, but Mrs Bradley contradicts her. ‘Not death,’ she says, ‘but only a summing-up of life.’ What is that summing up of life? If not death, is it that all we strive to achieve in life ends inevitably in frustration and defeat? Or are our endeavours lost by simple mischance, by accident, by something as banal as looking the wrong way?"