Wed 27 May 2009
A. E. W. MASON – At the Villa Rose. Hodder, UK, hardcover, 1910. Scribner, US, hardcover, 1910. Four-act play version: Hodder, 1928.
Silent film: Stoll, 1920 [Hanaud: Teddy Arundell; Miss Harland: Manora Thew]. Sound film: Haik, France, 1930, as Mystere de la Villa Rose. Also: Twickenham, 1930 [Hanuad: Austin Trevor; Miss Harland: Norah Baring], aka Mystery at the Villa Rose. Also: ABPC, 1939; released in the US as House of Mystery [Hanaud: Kenneth Kent; Miss Harland: Judy Kelly].
Reprinted many times, both in hardcover and soft, including: Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hc, 1936; Harlequin 460, Canada, pb, 1959 (both shown).
Middle-aged Julius Ricardo is on holiday at Aix-les-Bains. One evening at the casino he notices Celia Harland, beautiful companion to wealthy Madam Camille Dauvray. Rescued from starvation, and probably worse, by her kind-hearted employer, Miss Harland is now romantically involved with rich young Englishman Harry Wethermill.
Both men are staying at the Hotel Majestic, and next morning Wethermill bursts into Ricardo’s room with the news Madam Dauvray has been murdered at the Villa Rose, her confidante and maid Helene Vauquier bound and chloroformed, and Miss Harland, madam’s car, and all her extremely valuable jewelry are gone.
Wethermill insists Inspector Hanaud of the Paris Surete, also holidaying in the town, aid the local authorities with their investigation, not least in finding the missing girl, even though he appears to be the only person who believes her innocent of the terrible crime.
My verdict: Several undercurrents swirl about the villa and red herrings abound. Was the young woman using her skill as a faux medium to hoodwick her employer and if so, why?
How was a vital witness killed in a cab which did not stop in its journey between station and hotel?
What can be deduced from a pair of cushions?
The identity of the murderer is well concealed. There are clews for readers to spot as they go along, but I missed most of them!