Reviews by Allen J. Hubin.

   My first sampling of British author John Laurence, The Fanshawe Court Mystery (Hodder & Stoughton, 1925), quite encourages me. This is a well-paced tale, nicely complex in plotting and properly mystifying.

   Sometime detective story writer John Martin is riding his motorcycle along a rural lane one rain-filled night, headed for home, when flagged down by the beautiful girl he’s worshiped from afar but not yet met. The girl has come through a forest path and urgently asks a ride to the station so she can catch the train to London.

   He helps her, and later learns that a reclusive local resident has been found murdered along that path. Why was he killed, and what roles do the girl and her dragon-aunt play? Supt. Barlow seems not to be making much headway, so Martin and a crime reporter do their own digging, as much to save the girl as anything else. Gradually threads of conspiracy, fraud, murder and revenge emerge.


JOHN GLOAG Ripe for Development

   Ripe for Development (Cassell, 1936) is one of several novels by John Gloag about Lionel Buckby, and it’s a rather peculiar affair. Buckby has private money and only one passion: old furniture. He’s not very fond of the U.S…

    “There was no sherry in America; nobody had a palate for wine; nobody really understood comfort – they gave you plumbing, central heating, air-conditioning, non-stop noise and high speed and called the whole thing luxury and progress. It was good to be back in real civilization.”

   …and he’s one of the least perceptive protagonists in the genre. He gets mixed up with a crooked New York art importer and a pair of Chicago gangsters and never catches the drift. The results are nearly fatal – but New York’s Insp. Slamble, allied with the Yard at the end, comes to the rescue. The scheme has something to do with furniture bearing Buckby’s authentication being shipped across the Atlantic. Amusing in spots but not impressive.


   Another British author of total obscurity is Josephine Plain, who perpetuated three mysteries featuring Colin Anstruther in the 1930s. One of these is The Secret of the Snows (Butterworth, 1935), set in a Swiss mountain village.

   Detestable chemist Alfred Gitterson married a young and beautiful and fearsomely superficial wife and in due course got himself strangled on a mountainside. Or so it appears at first glance. At second glance circumstances change drastically and it seems physically impossible for only one person to have done the deed.

   Anstruther is providentially vacationing on the spot. He wants no part of the matter, but his old friend, Swiss detective M. Maraud, draws him in – and in any case Colin had suspected one of the principals of murder in an earlier case.

   Various characters are slowly revealed for what they are as Colin and Maraud struggle against an impossibility which gets worse the more they dig. Pleasant and well-written as this is, it neither plays fair nor convinces nor satisfies in resolving the puzzle.


   NOTE: Go here for the previous installment of this column.