Tue 26 Jan 2016
GRET LANE – Death Prowls the Cove. Herbert Jenkins, UK, hardcover, no date stated but known to be 1942.
Nothing much seems to be known about Gret Lane, author of 13 works of crime and detective published in England between 1925 and 1943, except that the name itself is a pseudonym. The first two are standalone tales, two others are cases tackled (and solved, one presumes) by a policeman by the name of Inspector Hook. All of the rest (nine in all) feature an amateur originally named Kate Clare, but once she is married, she is Kate Marsh, as she is in Death Prowls the Cove.
And in eight of the nine, she is paired up with a police inspector named John Barrin, but by the time Cove was written, and perhaps for some time before, he had retired from Scotland Yard. Both families, Kate and her husband Tony Marsh (who writes adventure tales), and Barrin and his wife Jennie (a matron of 60 or so who knits a lot) now live in semi-detached cottages in the small town of White Owl Cove along the shore in South Devon.
Between them they have two maids, Polly and Sarah, sisters who in turn are engaged to two former miscreants, now totally reformed, from earlier books, named Bill and Jo-Jo. Dead not too far into the book is Jo-Jo’s Uncle Pierre, a former smuggler who has come to live in England from France.
Suspected are Uncle Pierre’s former colleagues in crime; Bob Daw, a loutish local poacher of a fellow who had an argument with the dead man in a local drinking establishment before his death; a coterie of neighbors high above the cove who act very suspiciously; and Bill or Jo-Jo themselves, separately or together.
This is a very cozy affair, with lots of huddled plans and strategies on the part of the combined two households, along with a local police inspector who is more than willing to let both Kate and John Berrin have the way with the investigation.
And any self-respecting criminal who begin to beware when Kate starts reflectively rubbing the side of her nose. I hope I haven’t made this as unexciting as it is not, but truthfully the killer(s) can easily discerned by the laziest of readers — the scale and scope of the tale being so narrowly restricted as it is.
I wouldn’t mind reading another, if I could afford it. The least expensive copy offered for sale online is in the $60 range, and some of the earlier ones have even higher price tags, if they are offered for sale anywhere at all.
The Kate Clare (Marsh) series –
The Cancelled Score Mystery. Jenkins 1929 [JB]
The Curlew Coombe Mystery. Jenkins 1930 [JB]
The Lantern House Affair. Jenkins 1931
The Hotel Cremona Mystery. Jenkins 1932 [JB]
The Unknown Enemy. Jenkins 1933 [JB]
Death Visits the Summer-House. Jenkins 1939 [JB]
Death in Mermaid Lane. Jenkins 1940 [JB]
Death Prowls the Cove. Jenkins 1942 [JB]
The Guest with the Scythe. Jenkins 1943 [JB]