William F. Deeck

CAROLYN WELLS – The Clue of the Eyelash. J. B. Lippincott, 1933; A. L. Burt, reprint hardcover, no date; Triangle, reprint hardcover, 1938.

   Fleming Stone, called the “ubiquitous” by the publisher most bafflingly, but maybe they mean he has appeared in many books, is dining at the home of Wiley Vane, dilettante collector of old coins, rare books, etc, along with a number of other guests. One of his relatives finds Vane shot in the head, but dinner goes on nonetheless. Wouldn’t want to announce his murder and ruin a social event, would we?

   The only clue Stone has is a false eyelash, an item that he is not acquainted with, but that he and we become all too familiar with as the novel progresses, if that is what it does indeed do.

   The murderer was evident early on to this reviewer, who doesn’t spot many, although the motive wasn’t transparent. But I fancy my incorrect theory of why the crime was committed a lot more than I do the murderer’s alleged reason.

   A tedious investigation by Wells’s Fleming Stone, but interesting in that Stone is twice given strychnine by the murderer and survives. Stone, knowing that the murderer would try to dispose of him in this fashion — how he knows this is never provided to the reader and why he takes the poison is another secret — has his doctor’s word that a tumbler of “strong spirits” taken shortly before the strychnine will make the poison ineffective.

   The author says this is a fact, and I’m not going to experiment to disprove it. The murderer tries to poison Stone again, in a triumph of hope over experience, but Stone once more has taken strong drink rather than demur at taking the poison.
One does wonder who the human guinea pigs were who tested this counteragent and what might have been the fate of those who drank only, say, a half tumbler.

   A novel for those who will read anything.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 1, Winter 1990.