JONATHAN STAGGE – The Yellow Taxi. Popular Library 63, no date (ca. 1945). Originally published by Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1942.


   I have commented previously in these pages about the works of the authors [Richard Webb and Hugh Wheeler] who used the pseudonyms Q. Patrick, Patrick Quentin and Jonathan Stagge. The Yellow Taxi, I believe, is their best book. For one thing, rather than picking a rather obvious least-likely suspect (as Webb and Wheeler often did, especially in the Patrick Quentin books), in The Yellow Taxi they distribute suspicion evenly among a number of possible miscreants. For another, the plot is bizarre, elaborate and yet beautifully dovetailed.

   A terrified young woman approaches Dr. Westlake, the narrator and detective of the Stagge books, with a story about being hounded in a small New England community by a yellow New York taxicab. Westlake is inclined to pooh-pooh the story until he himself sees the taxi. (Webb and Wheeler are much more successful than certain creators of horror films in making an automobile an object of terror.) When the woman is killed falling off a horse, Westlake’s daughter, Dawn, finds evidence of murder. The eventual discovery of the role of the taxi only deepens the mystery.

   Moreover, Stagge may be playing with jaded experts in detective fiction, for he introduces identical twins and we assume (or at least I did) that confusion of identity is involved. It’s not, and the final solution is convincing and well-clued.

— Reprinted from The Poisoned Pen, Vol. 6, No. 2, Winter 1984/85.