PHILIP MACDONALD – The Polferry Riddle. First published as The Choice (Collins, UK, hardcover, 1931). Reprinted as The Polferry Mystery (Collins, UK, hardcover, 1932). Reprinted under this title by Doubleday, US, hardcover, 1931. Also: Vintage Books, US, paperback, September 1983.

   This one starts out as an ace number one detective puzzler, complete with a dark and stormy night, two visitors to the mansion rescued from the river, then sudden death, with the young wife of the home’s owner found with her throat slashed some time during the night in her bedroom. No weapon can be found.

   The three men give each other solid alibis. Each of four others asleep upstairs could have done it, but none of them have a motive. The house was locked tight. An outsider could not have done it. Even Colonel Anthony Gethryn is stumped. With no leads and no evidence the case is put on hold until two of the four members of the household meet with fatal accidents — or are they?

   A good chunk of the middle of the story basically becomes a thriller, as Gethryn and his friends from Scotland Yard make a frenzied chase halfway across England to avert the murder of a young woman who was also one of the four.

   What each of the “accidents” also does is narrow down the list of possible suspects to the original killing, one at a time, and still the police are stumped. No one could have done it, and with no weapon in the room, it could not have been suicide.

   But with Anthony Gethryn on the case, not all is lost, of course. I think the ending is a cheat, though, and I say this reluctantly, since until then, this was a highly readable example of the Golden Age of detective fiction. When it comes down to it, though, I don’t think Gethryn’s logic holds up, nor was I happy when the vital clue was found at nearly the very last moment. Why the police didn’t find it in their original investigation, when they claimed they scoured the house from top to bottom, I have no idea. Put this one solidly in the “Disappointing” category.