By Arthur Gask (1869-1951).
First appearance: My Best Story (1939) (see Amazon.com HERE).
Novelette (24 pages).
Online at Project Gutenberg Australia HERE.
"IN the dark hours of the night the destroyer had descended upon the little village of Finchingfield. Convulsions had seized his victims, their limbs had stiffened, and in a great agony their bodies had been arched. Then death had come, and the friends of man had sped to the Valhalla where the spirits go. And there they lay—five dogs outstretched upon the village road."A serial killer is loose in Fichingfield, someone, from the looks of it, with a murderous dislike for Canis lupus familiaris. Is this person mad? A man on holiday going by the name of Brown doesn't think so, and he's convinced it's a blind for a criminal plot that could net somebody a lot of money. The clinching clue concerns a fence that has changed color overnight . . .
~ Dr. Kains:
". . . he used language that as a churchwarden should have fallen from his lips only upon Whit-Sunday, in the singing of the Athanasian Creed."
~ Old Colonel Jones:
"'But it is monstrous,' boomed the Colonel, 'for the poisoning may go on. Other kinds of animals may die next and in a few days there may not be a paw or a hoof in the district.' His face was purple in his indignation. 'They ought to send down the best detectives they've got, at once.'"
~ Police Constable Abel Dance:
"'Speaking about detectives, Colonel Jones,' he whispered, 'it happens we have one of the best staying in the village now.' His eyes were opened very wide. 'Gilbert Larose, one of the cracks up at the Yard is at the present moment at 'The Goose and Feathers'. He's there on holiday under the name of Brown.'"
~ Gilbert Larose:
"'We'll manage this all ourselves. Then if it turns out there is anything in it'—he laughed—'you shall take all the credit, for I'm on holiday and don't want my name mentioned.'"
~ Jim Viles:
"You poisoned one dog too few . . ."
~ Professor Welder:
"'It's blackmail,' he exclaimed furiously, 'but I can't afford any scandal to be attached to me.'"
Typo: "he wetted his lips nervously every seconds"
- Arthur Gask's main detective was Gilbert Larose; David Vineyard does a good job of encapsulating the character and his adventures in a Mystery*File article (HERE):
While his novels are detective stories they are much closer to Edgar Wallace than Agatha Christie with the redoubtable Larose: brilliant, testy, a master of disguise, but also vulnerable and sometimes wrong. He’s no Holmes though. He’s a happily married man, and in several books he himself is on the run from police. Like [Arthur] Upfield’s half-aboriginal Bony, there is more than a touch of adventure that creeps into Larose’s adventures.
Most of the Larose novels I have read open in thriller country, but end in the courtroom. In more than one of them law gets a close shave in lieu of justice and Larose has a liberal attitude towards his official duties. I suppose being a fugitive from them would do that.
The books take place in Australia or in England where Scotland Yard is always happy to have the great Larose on hand.We might add that Gask lived in England for half a century before emigrating to Australia, so his depictions of both countries ought to be fairly accurate.
- Arthur Gask might be obscure, but he's not completely forgotten: The GAD Wiki (HERE) has a bibliography, while Wikipedia (HERE) and The Australian Dictionary of Biography (HERE) each have a page devoted to him.
- The following Gilbert Larose titles (26 novels but only 1 short story—this one) are presently available at Project Gutenberg Australia (HERE) in three formats (Text, ZIP, and HTML):
~ Cloud, the Smiter (1926) (Larose has a minor role)
~ The Dark Highway (1928)
~ The Shadow of Larose (1930)
~ The House on the Island (1931)
~ Gentlemen of Crime (1932)
~ The Hidden Door (1934)
~ The Poisoned Goblet (1935)
~ The Master Spy (1936)
~ The Night of the Storm (1937)
~ The Grave-digger of Monks Arden (1938)
~ The Vengeance of Larose (1939)
~ "The Destroyer" (1939) [short story, see above]
~ The House on the Fens (1940)
~ The Tragedy of the Silver Moon (1940)
~ His Prey Was Man (1942)
~ The Man of Death (1945)
~ The Dark Mill Stream (1947)
~ The Unfolding Years (1947)?
~ The House with the High Wall (1948)
~ The Storm Breaks (1949)
~ The Silent Dead (1950) [The story is set in the early 1930s and in the sequence of his stories would probably fit in after The House on the Island]
~ The Vaults of Blackarden Castle (1950)
~ Marauders by Night (1951)
Quite a few of these titles have been collected on Kindle (HERE).
The bottom line: "There are three faithful friends: an old wife, an old dog, and ready money."
— Benjamin Franklin