Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"The Solution Is an Anticlimax"

John Thomas McIntyre was a very serious novelist indeed, but in order to pay the bills "he relied on writing short stories, detective mysteries and juvenile fiction to make a living. He invented Ashton-Kirk, a scientific-minded criminologist [and Sherlock Holmes wannabe], and published several books featuring his cases. He also wrote serials for newspapers about a freelance detective named Jerry Mooney" (Wikipedia).

According to modern readers, McIntyre's abilities with the detective story were limited, at best. In this posting we'll concern ourselves mainly, but not exclusively, with reactions to his Ashton-Kirk efforts.

IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT.
By John T. McIntyre (1871-1951).
J. B. Lippincott Co.
1908. 292 pages.
Online HERE and HERE.
[Excerpt] . . . Mr. McIntyre has been unusually successful in ravelling up his mystery, but, as too commonly happens in these stories, the solution is an anticlimax. Too much that excited our curiosity is found to have been the mere work of chance; the dénouement is huddled up and arbitrary.  . . . — "Current Fiction," THE NATION (June 18, 1908; go to page 558, left bottom)
ASHTON-KIRK, INVESTIGATOR.
By John T. McIntyre (1871-1951).
Penn Publishing Co.
1910. 334 pages.
Online HERE, HERE, and HERE.
[Full review] This detective story is in the main well worked out, and is worth reading. At the instance of a friend, Ashton-Kirk begins first to seek the secret of the fear that is haunting Allan Morris, the betrothed of Edyth Vale. Scarcely is he engaged upon this, when Hume, a curio dealer, at No. 478 Chrystle Place, is murdered. All evidence points either to an Italian musician, or more directly to Allan Morris; and Miss Vale, too, it is found, had been at Hume's shop at the time of the murder.
The dead man, as Ashton-Kirk has established, had been the cause of Morris's strange actions toward Miss Vale. She now tries to balk the investigator, and so, as she thinks, to protect Morris, who has disappeared. Ashton-Kirk goes beyond the apparently patent clues and fixes the crime upon the real murderer.
The book is patterned a bit too obviously after the manner of Sir Conan Doyle, and the ending, both in the melodramatic death of the criminal and in the dénouement of the love story, is rather trite. The detective's part, however, is a well-knit piece of reasoning, and furnishes an engaging problem for the reader. — "Current Fiction," THE NATION (December 15, 1910; go to page 580 bottom left)
[Excerpt] . . . Ashton-Kirk, Investigator splits into two almost equal halves. The first half (Chapters 1-13) is a pure mystery tale. The second half is mainly a thriller, with characters chasing each other around the countryside, suspenseful stakeouts, and other mild thriller material. I think that the book's mystery oriented first half is much better. Anyone can read the first half (Chapters 1-13), then some concluding sections of the second, in which some mystery riddles are explained (Chapters 24-25), and get the full plot of the novel. — Mike Grost, GAD Wiki
Ashton-Kirk, who has solved so many mysteries, is himself something of a problem even to those who know him best. Although young, wealthy, and of high social position, he is nevertheless an indefatigable worker in his chosen field. He smiles when men call him a detective. "No; only an investigator," he says. He has never courted notoriety; indeed, his life has been more or less secluded. However, let a man do remarkable work in any line and, as Emerson has observed, "the world will make a beaten path to his door."
Those who have found their way to Ashton-Kirk's door have been of many races and interests. Men of science have often been surprised to find him in touch with the latest discoveries, scholars searching among strange tongues and dialects, and others deep in tattered scrolls, ancient tablets and forgotten books have been his frequent visitors. But among them come many who seek his help in solving problems in crime.
"I'm more curious than some other fellows, that's all," is the way he accounts for himself. "If a puzzle is put in front of me I can't rest till I know the answer." At any rate his natural bent has always been to make plain the mysterious; each well hidden step in the perpetration of a crime has always been for him an exciting lure; and to follow a thread, snarled by circumstances or by another intelligence has been, he admits, his chief delight.
There are many strange things to be written of this remarkable man—but this, the case of the numismatist Hume, has been selected as the first because it is one of the simplest, and yet clearly illustrates Ashton-Kirk's peculiar talents. It will also throw some light on the question, often asked, as to how his cases come to him.  — (Summary by John T. McIntyre, reproduced on LibriVox.)
ASHTON-KIRK, SECRET AGENT.
By John T. McIntyre (1871-1951).
Penn Publishing Co.
1912. 332 pages.
[Excerpt] . . . This uneven, unsuccessful book is nowhere as good as the first novel about sleuth Ashton-Kirk, Ashton-Kirk: Investigator. It also gets Ashton-Kirk involved in spy intrigue, something not present in Ashton-Kirk: Investiga-tor, which is a pure detective novel.  . . . McIntyre does not sustain the pure mystery elements. Soon, we are engulfed in a routine spy novel, imitative of William Le Queux.  . . . — Mike Grost, GAD Wiki
ASHTON-KIRK, SPECIAL DETECTIVE.
By John T. McIntyre (1871-1951).
Penn Publishing Co.
1914.
Reissued in 2007 by Wildside Press.

ASHTON-KIRK, CRIMINOLOGIST.
By John T. McIntyre (1871-1951).
Penn Publishing Co.
1919. 332 pages.
Online HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.
[Excerpt] . . . This is the fourth and final detective story, solved by genius consulting-detective Ashton-Kirk. This is a middling mystery. It has virtues and faults intermixed.  . . . There is lots of trailing of suspects. But there is little detective cleverness.  . . . No real detective puzzles are solved. Aside from the choice of killer, there is no ingenuity of mystery plot.  . . . — Mike Grost, GAD Wiki
THE MUSEUM MURDER.
By John T. McIntyre (1871-1951).
Crime Club.
1929. 307 pages.
Online HERE.
[Full review] AN UP-TO-DATE murder in the John Gregory Art Museum of New York. The curator is found stabbed to death with a Moorish dagger, and a millionaire art patron, two of the trustees of the institution and the grandson of the museum's founder, are all involved.
Chalmers, a chubby connoisseur, remarkably fond of his food and comfort, takes charge of the investigation, within twelve hours picks out the perpetrator—and goes back to his gourmandizing. — "Notes on New Books," THE BOOKMAN (January 1930)
Resources:
- MYSTERY*FILE has postings dealing with McIntyre's work HERE and HERE.
- A profile newspaper article about McIntyre is HERE.

Category: Detective fiction

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