ANNE ROWE – Too Much Poison.

Detective Book Club; 3-in-1 edition; hardcover reprint, January 1945. Hardcover first edition: M. S. Mill, 1944.

   I love old mysteries. It’s like taking a small time capsule into the past, a past seldom written about in history books. The past that people actually lived in, everyday people, in all walks of life.

ANNE ROWE Too Much Poison

   Including the Manhattan social set. Strangely enough, the war is never mentioned in this wartime mystery, a cheery sort of world, yet with a hint of tragedy hiding behind the curtains. Mona Carstairs, the secretary-nurse to a doctor slowly establishing himself, has secretly been married to him for three years, supporting and nurturing him. And now, as he is on the verge of success, he has found a new lady friend, very young, petite and silvery blonde.

   That’s the story as it begins, and it probably has you yawning already. The mystery itself, two deaths by exotic cobra poison, is much more complicated. I won’t go into it in any more detail, but there are quite a few suspects, all in social circles that wouldn’t allow me in, but it’s quite a pleasure to read about them.

   Coming to Mona’s aid — as she gradually becomes Inspector Barry’s primary suspect — is Cliff Mallory, a son of one of Barry’s former colleagues on the force, as well as a cousin of Dr. Carstair’s new flame, a renown polo player, and now a knight in armor and an amateur detective to boot.

   Any resemblance to actual police procedure seems purely coincidental, although I would admit that standards may have differed then from what I see on NYPD Blue now. But the mystery is definitely taken seriously by Anne Rowe, with lots of clues and false trails scattered throughout, giving the fan of amateur detective fiction quite a bit to puzzle over.

[ Four stars (out of five). ]                 — January 2001.

[UPDATE.] 05-29-08.   I’m going to assume that not only is the book is forgotten, but so is the author. While this is the only book of Anne Rowe’s book that I’ve read, posting this review from over seven years ago makes me want to read more of them.

   To that end, if you’re also so inclined, here’s a complete list, thanks to Al Hubin and his Crime Fiction IV. Except for the one marked UK, listed are only the US editions and titles. (I have a feeling that some of these are going to be hard to find.)

ROWE, ANNE (Von Meibom) (1901?-1975?)

* The Turn of a Wheel (n.) Macaulay 1930
* -Men Are Strange Lovers (n.) King 1935
* Curiosity Killed a Cat (n.) Morrow 1941 [Insp. Josiah Pettengill; Maine]
* The Little Dog Barked (n.) Morrow 1942 [Insp. Josiah Pettengill; Maine; Theatre]
* Too Much Poison (n.) Mill 1944 [Insp. Barry; New York City, NY]
* Fatal Purchase (n.) Mill 1945 [Maine]
* The Painted Monster (n.) Gifford-UK 1945 [Insp. Josiah Pettengill]
* Up to the Hilt (n.) Mill 1945 [Insp. Barry; Connecticut]
* Deadly Intent (n.) Mill 1946 [Insp. Barry; New York City, NY]