Thursday, April 5, 2018


By S. S. Van Dine (Willard Huntington Wright, 1888-1939).
First appearance: Scribner's, March 1939.
Review column (1 page).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

"The literary crime wave of 1939 has got under way with bounce and gusto," the creator of Philo Vance tells us with a wink, "and several highly meritorious murders have already been committed."
   "The Rhadamanthine Doctor Thorndyke is at his magisterial best in The Stoneware Monkey, by R. Austin Freeman (Dodd, Mead, $2). Although the book is made up of several narratives by different people, the sum total is satisfactory, and the puzzle is excellent. There is considerable skulduggery afoot in its pages, with the remains of one victim turning up in the shape of a calcined finger bone and some bits of porcelain teeth salvaged from a potter's furnace. The ultimate, and startling, discovery clears up two murders and elucidates the mystery of the hideous simian from which the story takes its name. All details are painstakingly worked out, and though there are few pyrotechnics, the story marches."
   Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE) - Detection by Moonlight (HERE) - A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection (HERE).
   "Arrogant Alibi, by C. Daly King (Appleton, $2), attempts the most difficult of all mystery-story devices—namely, the disintegration of the multiple alibi. And it succeeds amazingly well. Though Freeman Wills Crofts is the undisputed dean of the alibi mechanicians, Mr. King is well forward. Furthermore, he has two related crimes to clear up—the murder of a great Egyptologist's widow, Mrs. Timothy, and that of Elisha Spingler, a co-worker of the late Doctor Timothy. When the vorpal blades go snicker-snack Michael Lord, a New York Police Inspector, and his close friend, Doctor Pons, an 'integrative psycho-logist,' are luckily present in the musty residence-museum to apprehend the arrogant slayer. It all adds up to an ingenious, carefully planned, and highly literate tale for the advanced student in literary detection."
   Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE) - Death Can Read (HERE) - A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection (HERE).
   "Speaking of that old master in crime, Freeman Wills Crofts, behold! here he is with an excellent yarn for adult minds, Antidote to Venom (Dodd, Mead, $2). The story is different in manner and approach from The Cask—indeed, it is a detective story written backwards, somewhat in the manner of the tales in Austin Freeman's The Singing Bone. But for all its patent heterodoxy, it ranks high in the current output. Viper venom causes the death of Professor Burnaby; but, the fiendish subtlety of the murderer notwithstanding, our old friend, Inspector French of Scotland Yard, does an excellent bit of deduction. Here is a masterpiece of its kind, wherein the reader has no temptation to turn to the last page because the author lets him in on the secret long before the doughty Inspector arrives. But don't let that innovation prejudice you."
   Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE) - Pretty Sinister Books (HERE) - A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection (HERE).
   "Greetings and a hearty welcome to Margaret Erskine, a newcomer in the mystery field. The Limping Man (Doubleday, Doran, $2) is a well-written,
well-constructed document, far superior to the usual thriller. Despite its overemphasis on the eerie and the legendary, I commend the book, and hopefully await future forays into crime by the same author."
   Related: The GAD Wiki (HERE) - Do You Write Under Your Own Name? (HERE).
   [Note: The Limping Man was also published as And Being Dead and The Painted Mask.]
- Our previous Van Dine review was last November (HERE).

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