Saturday, August 1, 2015


The mystery fiction reviewer in the July 1938 issue of Scribner's (online HERE) encountered five books that you might never have heard of (except, perhaps, for the first one); the reviewer's reactions are recorded below in full:
Murder on Safari, by Elspeth Huxley (Harper, $2), is one that the connoisseur of detective stories just mustn't miss. The scene is "Chania," a British colony in Africa; the detective is Vachell of the C.I.D.; the murdered persons are a wealthy noblewoman who first loses her jewels—the reason why Vachell was called in—and then her life, and a too utterly utter young Englishman who knows just a bit too much to live any longer; and the murderer is pretty well beyond suspicion, though always in sight, until the end. No other man hunt this month is likely to give better sport. [Also see the GAD Wiki entry HERE] [Curt Evans has written: "After a decent apprentice genre effort, this fine writer produced two fine detective novels [Murder on Safari and Death of an Aryan (1939)], interestingly set in Africa, with an excellent series detective." From a Mystery*File posting HERE]
Mr. E. Phillips Oppenheim is back at Monte Carlo again, and all is jake! His most recent two volumes have been slightly on the sour side, but in [TheColossus of Arcadia (Little, Brown, $2), the magic wheel spins and the croupiers drone the famous formulae, lovely ladies and faultlessly groomed men bust the bank, champagne flows like Niagara—and behind all the gaiety there is the Black Shadow of a War that will set All Europe Aflame, unless One Man is foiled. The old familiar faces. But it is entertainment at its slickest and most diverting. [GAD Wiki HERE and a website devoted to Oppenheim HERE]
Francis Beeding's The Black Arrows (Harper, $2) is another tale of international intrigue, and slightly sterner stuff than the Oppenheim opus. The hero, John Crowder, an English secret agent sent out to help the Italian Government scotch a super-Fascist group that would oust the Duce, misses death by a fraction in the first chapter and is in peril on practically every page. Not quite so tightly constructed as earlier Beedings, but good for an idle evening. [GAD Wiki HERE and still more about the author on Mystery*File HERE]
Lilies for Madame, by Hugh Austin (Crime Club, $2), rings the changes on the old impersonation motif. Jean Wren, the penniless heroine, takes the place of Georgia Lore, a night-club beauty with a smirched past, on a South American cruise. The real Georgia Lore is then murdered, and the trouble begins. A touch on the lurid side, but with lush moments that make it agreeable. [GAD Wiki HERE]
It's a bit too long, but for shrewd plotting, tense atmosphere, and sound deduction They Talked of Poison, by March Evermay (Macmillan, $2), deserves an extra good mark. The murderees are a Southern pastor and his daughter. The narrator—who has a couple of fingers in the solution of the case—is the daughter of the professorial specialist in crime at whose home occurred the inexplicable poisoning of a pet dog that started the baneful ball rolling. And the crime is finally broken by an observant and likeable cop. The identity of the killer is a moot matter until the final omnium gatherum, and the reader may be slightly annoyed because the guilty one has not been very much to the fore in the preceding chapters. [Also see the Mystery*File review HERE]

Category: Detective fiction criticism

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