GEORGE HARMON COXE – Uninvited Guest. Popular Library, paperback reprint; no date stated (late 1960s?). Hardcover edition: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953.

GEORGE HARMON COXE - Uninvited Guest

   According to Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV, there have been only nine mysteries (one marginal) that have taken place in Barbados, one many island countries in the Caribbean (independent since 1966) , and George Harmon Coxe has written three of them. (The most famous of the other six is probably The Green Hell Treasure, by Robert L. Fish, a Captain Jose da Silva adventure.)

   While many of Coxe’s standalone novels take place in such exotic places such as Cuba, Panama, Belize and Trinidad, I’ve always preferred those he wrote with either of his two favorite characters, Flash Casey and Kent Murdock, both newspaper photographers in the Boston area. Chalk it up to their newspaper backgrounds, which I always enjoy, and the ultimate stability of familiar faces.

   But I was attracted to this one by first of all the McGinnis cover, which may be a little too small and dark to show up well — and my apologies for that if it doesn’t — and of course the attraction of the Caribbean is exactly that, an attraction. (I’ll see if I can’t blow up the artwork a little.)

GEORGE HARMON COXE - Uninvited Guest

   The uninvited guest is Julia Parks, who crashes a small party planning on an short ocean cruise by schooner the next day. She knows most of them, most of them know her, and plans of several are threatened by her unexpected presence.

   One of the above is her ex-husband, who has come into a small inheritance since their divorce. Imagine his surprise when she tells him that the divorce never went through.

   The owner of the schooner, Alan Scott, does not know her, but he would like to sell the schooner to one of the couples about to make the trip with him, and the trip may be off.

   Scott also has an eye on one of the unattached women in the party, or perhaps she is not, as she seems to have been brought along by her half-sister with an ulterior motive in mind. But when she (the girl) seems to put herself in danger of being accused of the decedent’s passing — oops, I missed telling you about that, but you know who I mean, don’t you? — he (Scott) takes it upon himself to clear her, in spite of the abilities of a rather good policeman who’s put in charge of the case.

GEORGE HARMON COXE - Uninvited Guest

   You can therefore categorize this as a case tackled by an amateur detective, which is to say, there is a lot of messing around with evidence, clues, accusations and alibis, the whole works.

   There’s not a lot of action, only a fist fight or two, but lots of nightclubbing and the like, with the abundance of social drinking that goes along with it.

   There are clues, by the way, but without motives — would you be surprised if I told you that the dead woman was not the most popular woman on the island? — I’d have to say on a Fair Play scale ranging from one to ten, this would rank no higher than five.

   Mildly entertaining at best is my final judgment. I still favor those guys from Boston.