Thursday, June 12, 2014

"Mrs. Balfame Had Made Up Her Mind to Commit Murder"

By Gertrude Atherton (1857-1948).
Frederick A. Stokes.
1916. 335 pages.
Online HERE, HERE, and HERE.
A mainstream novelist tries her hand at a psychological mystery, and by this account she succeeds. It's quite possible that Francis Iles (1893-1971) might have read Mrs. Balfame, if for nothing else than that arresting first line:
[Excerpts] Mrs. Atherton's new novel will be especially interesting, to those who follow her work, because of the experiment she has tried in it. For her, it is quite a new departure.
From her usual method of study of character and the relation of the individual to environment she has turned to the uses of plot, crime and mystery.
The very first sentence of the story forecasts the different tone in which it is written: "Mrs. Balfame had made up her mind to commit murder."
But, although the tale is so much given over to the weaving of plot and the mystification of the reader, the author has not relinquished entirely the psychological study of her people.
. . . The story is ingeniously constructed and developed with skill. The reader's interest will hardly fail to be tensely expectant from the early pages to the unfolding of the mystery.
Mrs. Atherton has been careful of all the small details that make for the smooth running of the machinery of such a plot.  . . . — Florence Finch Kelly, "Some Novels of the Month," THE BOOKMAN (March 1916; scroll to page 83)
- Curt Evans has an article about Gertrude Atherton's "public spat" with Anna Katharine Green HERE.

Category: Detective fiction

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