Thu 27 Dec 2012
William F. Deeck
CONSTANCE & GWENYTH LITTLE – Great Black Kanba. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1944. Dell #181, paperback, 1947 [mapback edition]. Rue Morgue Press, softcover, 1988.
Of all the subgenres in crime fiction, amnesia is my least favorite. The Little sisters here have made me forget — unintentional and probably unfunny joke — that bias with a not too plausible but entertaining story of a young woman who loses her memory after a blow to the head while on an Australian train-called Great Black Kanba, or snake, by the aborigines — in the early days of World War II. Worse, the young woman’s identity is mixed up with another female’s, and she is laid claim to by an odd family containing a blackmailer and perhaps a murderer.
Apparently the different areas of Australia built different gauge railroad tracks. To travel through Australia meant getting off one train and on to another; each change creates problems for the protagonist. The young woman loses her memory on one train, and on two others some unfortunate people have their throats slit.
Good fun with a plucky heroine, but don’t look for fair play.
NOTE: For a long insightful commentary on the Little sisters and their approach to mystery fiction — “comic cozies” — check out this page on the Rue Morgue Press website.