Thu 2 Mar 2017
JOHN SLADEK – Black Aura. Walker, US, hardcover, 1979; paperback, 1983. First edition: Jonathan Cape, UK, hardcover, 1974.
Thackeray Phin, two years an Englishman and bemoaning his lack of a career as an amateur detective, decides to undertake an investigation on his own into the psychic medium business. His ensuing encounter with the Aetheric Mandala Society also, but not unexpectedly, brings him into another murder case at last.
A sense of humor is both a requirement and the redeeming virtue here. Several deft jabs at the conventional murder mystery land none too gently. Several disappearances from locked rooms and one faulty attempt at levitation enter into the spirit of the occasion.
The closing explanations are obviously written by an expert choreographer of such matters — the master, John Dickson Carr himself, would be well pleased — but do be warned that the characters are otherwise strictly of the stick figure variety.
Bibliographic Notes: A second and final case (**) for Thackeray Phin was Invisible Green, published in this country by Walker, also in 1979. John Sladek himself was primarily known as a science fiction writer.
(**) Not quite so. See the comments for information about two cases that Phin solved in short story form.