Sat 12 Sep 2009
JOEL TOWNSLEY ROGERS – The Red Right Hand. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1945.
First published in New Detective Magazine, March 1945. Reprinted many times, in both hardcover and soft. Shown: Pocket 385, pb, 1946; Dell D203, pb, Great Mystery Library #9, 1957.
It’s been a while since I despaired of catching up with all the books I would want to read so I have piles of books by old favourites that I haven’t yet got around to, books that I have acquired over the years meaning to try, and new books whose descriptions seem tempting for one reason or another.
This fell into the second category, an impossible crime story that comes highly recommended from some quarters including that indefatigable searcher of impossible crime themes, Bob Adey.
Indeed it was a visit from Bob, who persuaded my son to try the book, even finding a copy in a local second-hand book shop, that led to me finally getting around to it.
I had heard that it was a difficult book to read, that the language was turgid and the action was slow-moving, but in fact I was soon into things and though the layout was rather unusual it never lost my interest.
The story is told by Harry Riddle, a medical doctor, starting with him sitting at the desk of Adam MacComerou in the wilds of Connecticut recounting the story of what has happened in order to try make sense of it.
His recollections are not in chronological order as he muses over what he has been told: the story of Inis St. Erme, a rich young man, and Elinor Darrie, his bride to be, who are driving overnight to Vermont in order to be married, and how a tramp that they give a lift to kills St. Erme and drives off creating much mayhem before impossibly disappearing in the region of MacComerou’s house.
Finally the story catches up to current time and Riddle’s writings finally allow him to explain what has happened.
There would appear to be a few coincidences abounding, unless I’m missing something here, but the denouement is comprehensive and clears up the mysteries pretty well.
An unusual style, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I’m glad I can now add it to my list (still being compiled) of books read.