JONATHAN STAGGE – Death, My Darling Daughters. Doubleday Crime Club, US, hardcover, 1945. Michael Joseph, UK, hardcover, as Death and the Dear Girls. No paperback edition. Bestseller Mystery B164, digest-sized paperback, 1953. (Thanks to Bill Kelly for the latter information.)

   In cool, analytical fashion Stagge methodically bares the dabbling fraudulency underlying the cultural legend pretended to by an ultra respectable New England family. The august Benjamine Hilton was once Vice President of the United States, and two generations later his family still finds delight in dropping names from the political and literary past. Their influence is used in hushing up the mysterious death of the family nanny during a secret scientific conference they are conducting, but their assumption that murder is beneath them is a disastrous one.

   The unlikely investigator on the scene is Dr. Westlake, only physician for the small town of Kenmore, but this is not, however, the first case of murder he’s had to deal with. Occasionally great Freudian profundities rear their ugly heads, but as a detective puzzle it’s more than fair. Overall, though, an oversimplified view of life from another age.

Rating: C plus

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 2, No. 4, July 1978.

Bibliographic Notes: “Jonathan Stagge” was one the many tangled pen name/collaborations between Richard Wilson Webb & Hugh Callingham Wheeler (also variously Q. Patrick and Patric Quentin). This is the seventh of nine Dr. Westlake novels published between 1937 and 1949.