Thursday, January 23, 2014

Two Ragtime Era Mysteries by Women

By Carolyn Wells (1862-1942).
J. B. Lippincott Co.
1915. 300 pages.
Online HERE and HERE.

By Geraldine Bonner (1870-1930).
D. Appleton & Co.
1915. 315 pages.
Online HERE and HERE.
Two detective novels paired together in one review.

Miss Wells's latest romance again introduces Fleming Stone, the master detective, but only towards the end, and, it must be admitted, after the reader has received so many nods and winks as to have made up his mind pretty conclusively for himself concerning the identity of the murderer.
Thus Mr. Stone has really very little to do except to parade the nonchalance behind the veil of which his keen deductions are always formulated, and to explain the conclusion—wholly unjustified by any recorded premises—that led him to look for the species of marble called "White Alley."
When we really arrive at the mysterious disappearance of wealthy Justin Arnold, in his own burglar-alarumed house on Washington Heights, the tale is moderately diverting, though the faultiness of the deductive processes would infuriate Sherlock Holmes; but before we reach the point at which the mystery begins we are asked to wade through nearly a hundred pages devoted to the flirtations of a little minx who is alluded to with tiresome reiteration as "naughty" Dorothy. — "Current Fiction," THE NATION (July 15, 1915)
Miss Bonner's mystery and the heroine thereof are of an altogether different order. The story is told by a telephone girl in modified telephonese, a jargon which becomes at times a little trying; but the story itself is remarkably good of its kind, and uncommonly well worked out.
The mystery is concealed to the very end, unless the reader is a person of exceptional astuteness, for there is just one passage in the early pages of the book that points to the solution, while there are various false clues, cunningly contrived, that will start the earnest seeker running breathlessly in the wrong direction.
For the purposes of her story Miss Bonner has omitted to mobilize few of the latest resources of civilization, including an aeroplane, and at the end they are all found to fit into the general scheme with the nicety of a well-contrived puzzle.
There is a minx in this book, too, but here it is the minx who gets murdered, and hence the role that she plays is more engaging, because more silent, than that of Miss Wells's heroine. — THE NATION, op. cit.
- ONTOS has already paid visits to Carolyn Wells HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.
- Bonner's THE BLACK EAGLE MYSTERY (1916) is available HERE; a short Wikipedia article about her is HERE. Her novel MISS MAITLAND, PRIVATE SECRETARY (1919; online HERE) was filmed in 1920 as THE GIRL IN THE WEB (IMDb).

Category: Detective fiction

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