William F. Deeck


PAUL McGUIRE – The Black Rose Murder. Brentano’s, US, hardcover, 1932. First published in the UK: Skeffington, hardcover, 1931, as Murder in Bostall.

   At first appearance, it’s a simple case: Lord Barbary wants his wife investigated for possible adultery. The firm that Jacob Modstone heads has undertaken the task. Modstone is an elderly private detective who is “kindly and honest except in the way of business and old furniture.” His nephew, the firm’s chief operative, is in charge of the investigation. Unfortunately, despite his uncle’s misgivings, the nephew doesn’t reveal all of the facts to Mr. Modstone and is soon found dead.

   It appears that Modstone’s nephew may have been blackmailing someone. In order to clear his nephew’s reputation, Modstone begins a search for the murderer, a search that pits him directly against Inspector Cummings, of no known first name. Occasionally Modstone is ahead of Cummings, but not very far, and Cummings always catches up.

   The plot isn’t much here. It is the characters of Modstone, a most unusual private investigator — on one occasion he carries a revolver but is “not certain what happened when you pulled the trigger thing” — and Cummings that make the novel enjoyable reading.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 1, Winter 1991.

      The Chief Inspector Cummings series —

Murder in Bostall. Skeffington 1931. Brentano’s, US, 1932, as The Black Rose Murder.
Three Dead Men. Skeffington 1931. Brentano’s, US, 1932.
Daylight Murder. Skeffington 1934. Doubleday, US, 1935, as Murder at High Noon.
Murder in Haste. Skeffington 1934. No US edition.
7:30 Victoria. Skeffington 1935. No US edition.

Note:   Previously reviewed on this blog by Al Hubin was Murder by the Law (Skeffington, 1932). For more on the author himself, plus a more complete bibliography, check out this page on the Golden Age of Detection wiki.