Weekly round-up

Here’s a handful of detective stories.  None are outstanding, but those who like this sort of thing will like them.  Probably.

The House of Strange Guests (Nicholas Brady, 1932)

A blackmailer is found dead in his bathtub; first accident, then suicide, then murder are suspected.  The murderer is obvious from very early on; it is, as several readers have said, one of the clichés of the genre, and The Avengers did it in 1966, with better jokes.  The only real surprise is the secret identity of one of the suspects.

The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan (Stuart Palmer, 1941)

Miss Withers is in Hollywood, advising on a film about Lizzy Borden.  Like most of Stuart Palmer’s books, it reads well – there’s plenty of action, including the apparent death of Miss Withers herself – but the solution lacks cleverness.

The Division Bell Mystery (Ellen Wilkinson, 1932)

American millionaire shot in the House of Commons, just as he’s about to negotiate a business deal.  Likeable young Tory MP investigates; cabinet ministers behave foolishly.  Good depiction of ’30s British politics from the inside (writer was a Labour minister).  But the crime feels oddly tacked on to the setting, and the reader should suspect X early on.

Fatality in Fleet Street (C. St. John Sprigg, 1933)

Newspaper magnate stabbed in his office just before he’s about to start a major war with Russia.  It’s technically science fiction: set in November 1939, then six years in the future; Stalin is dead, and his successors have introduced a gentler Communism.  Most of this is excellent – lively telling, a good spread of suspicion, a trial scene à la Clouds of Witness.  I’m not mad about the solution; in principle, it’s clever enough (although used by Henry Wade and Christopher Bush), but lacks oomph.

Missing or Murdered (Robin Forsythe, 1929)

Another political case: minister (ag & fish, or something similarly minor) disappears; see title, with question mark.  This is very much an English detective story; it belongs to the boring Knox school, rather than to the boring Freeman/Crofts school.  Amateur sleuth (artist) theorises, mulls, cogitates, and restates the evidence in every chapter.  Joy!  The plot involves (deep breath) a veiled lady, blackmail, bigamy, and a wicked cousin from America (introduced out of nowhere).  At least there are no boats or trains.




3 thoughts on “Weekly round-up

  1. I liked the Palmer, too, although I get what you’re saying. It seems to be the truth about all the Withers stories. I won’t read any of the others – but I will read you telling me about them! You’re in your glory, Nick! 🙂


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