Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"It Does Give an Exhilarating Illusion of the Rush and Swirl of a Mad Flight"

THE BLACK FLIER.
By Edith Macvane (1878 - ?).
Moffat, Yard & Co.
1909. 382 pages.
No e-versions available.
The review, reprinted below, makes The Black Flier sound more like a comedy of errors and less like what you would call a mystery, which could have been the author's intention; concerning her, all we can find out is just above. Bear in mind that in 1909, automobiles were still something of a novelty:
So long as the automobile fad endures, it is likely that almost any story in which the characters are hurled madly through town and country at law-breaking speed, undergoing adventures that defy all rules of probability, will receive a favourable verdict from the general public. The Black Flier, by Edith Macvane, adds one more to the already lengthy list.
As for the likelihood of the incidents which in this particular case are supposed to have happened to the man and woman mainly concerned, the simplest method is to detail them briefly and without comment, leaving the reader to judge for himself.
A young American, about to marry an English girl at her own home, discovers half an hour before the appointed time that there is a blunder of names in the marriage license.
He hastens across the fields by a short cut to the register's office, has an ugly fall in attempting to jump a hedge, and lands in the road, his wedding garments in ruins and his leg crippled from an ugly twist.
An approaching motor car seems to solve his difficulty. At a signal it stops, a young woman, addressing him in French, assists him to his feet and into the car, then puts on full speed, and in spite of all his expostulations, drives blindly onward until at nightfall they stop at a strange and isolated inn just over the Scottish border.
This unaccountable young woman who has thus kidnapped him enters their names as husband and wife, and the man, not wishing to expose her to scandal, and unversed in Scottish law, refrains from contradicting her.
Who and what she is he is not told; but he gathers that she is fleeing from some great danger; and her youth and beauty awake his chivalry and sympathy.
The next morning he discovers that the lady has flown, her pursuers having overtaken her and spirited her away.
He himself is left with her motor car on his hands, and is promptly arrested on the charge of having stolen it.
Within twenty-four hours, Fate has willed it that he should desert a bride at the altar, elope with a strange woman, be charged with a felony, and under Scottish law have presumably and quite against his will contracted a marriage.
"People don't do such things!"
To contrive an explanation of these various happenings, and an escape from their consequences that will satisfy even the rudimentary demands of plausibility, is a task that might well dismay even a veteran concocter of mystery stories, and probably few could do much better than Edith Macvane has succeeded in doing.
Nevertheless, the book does not carry conviction with it; we know all the time that things don't and couldn't have happened that way for the simple and all sufficient reason, to quote the immortal words of Assessor Brack, "People don't do such things!"
Nevertheless, The Black Flier is destined to be widely read and popularly enjoyed, because it does give an exhilarating illusion of the rush and swirl of a mad flight, the breathless onward plunge through space, the fascination of limitless and lawless speed. — Frederic Taber Cooper, "The Popular Verdict and Some Recent Novels," THE BOOKMAN (August 1909; Jump To page 647, right middle)

Category: Detective fiction

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