Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Singularly Aloof from Ordinary Sensational Literature"

By L. Dougall (1858-1923).
Funk & Wagnalls Co.
1905. 345 pages. $1.50
Online HERE.
This one sounds like P. D. James a century in advance; in other words, look for much social commentary with a minimum of detection:
This is a clever story in which a plot of purely melodramatic interest is treated with artistic restraint and sobriety. With each chapter the mystery round which the whole novel has been built up is driven deeper. The complication increases absolutely to the end. Until the actual moment of revelation, not a hint is given which could lead to a premature solution.
There has been a ghastly and extraordinary murder, but the mystery of the murderer intensifies with an accumulative interest. At the same time, the book is singularly aloof from ordinary sensational literature. Its manner is absolutely devoid of excitement. The development has no lurid or scenic climaxes. The style is noticeably finished and dignified, and its pre-occupations are as much with personality, with emotion, and the inexplicable and delicate contradictions of the human heart, as with the successful maintenance of its criminal drama.
Few novels are so free from the superfluous. Everything that has no bearing upon the progress of the story has been omitted. As a result each figure stands out with a singular sharpness of impression. One seems to see the two sisters, in their conventional orderly dwelling, and to feel the incongruity of the tragedy someone else's sin has fastened upon them.
Some inconsistencies there are of course. In real life discovery could scarcely have been delayed so long. Also the reader is a little hurt by the unloving nature of the end. The incurable human desire for romance feels chilled at this denial of all tender emotions. One at least of the charming sisters might have been provided with a husband.
Nevertheless—and one cannot have everything even in fiction—the writer is to be congratulated upon an extremely exciting plot, accompanied by some tranquil and attractive character studies and a very easy and natural manner. — THE BOOKMAN (October 1904)
The plot of this novel is managed with much skill, holding one's interest without disclosing the solution of the puzzle until the very end.
Two Northern ladies, while living apparently harmless and normal lives in the lonely mountain region of North Carolina, are the center of the mystery. Two gentlemen become involved, but the love motive is quite in abeyance.
It is a cleverly told tale, with many original points, written by an English author who makes the unusual choice of an American background. — THE OUTLOOK (February 25, 1905; scroll to page 504)
- A Wikipedia article about the author, Lily Dougall, is HERE.
- An entry in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography is HERE.

Category: Detective fiction

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