IONE SANDBERG SHRIBER – The Last Straw. Lt. Bill Grady #8. Rinehart & Co., Inc., hardcover, 1946. No paperback edition.

   I think that Ione Sandberg Shriber is a sure-fire choice for inclusion in the category of Little Known Mystery Writers. This is spite of the fact that between 1940 and 1953 she wrote a total of eleven mystery novels, eight of them cases solved by Lt. Bill Grady, whom I talked a bit about in my review of Pattern for Murder, number seven in the series, which appeared here on this blog late last year. (Follow the link.)

   The fellow named Hemingway who appeared in that one as Grady’s assistant/aide-de-camp does not show up in this one, and Grady himself has moved from the state of Ohio to the La Jolla, California area. But just as in the previous book, the book focuses on a dysfunctional family, a rather wealthy one, but money certainly does not guarantee happiness.

   The new wife of a much older man, now an invalid, is in fact in love with a another man, whose return from the war seems to be catalyst for several events to come to a head, beginning with a fatal hit-and-run accident committed with someone who has access to the family car, then a series of thefts from the house, the most recent that of some diamonds worth a small fortune.

   The old man’s death is verified by his doctor to be entirely natural, but his will, or rather his plans to change it, makes it hard to believe that hi death was just a coincidence. And in the background is the mysterious death several years before of Henry Thorne’s previous wife Iris.

   When a second death occurs, this one definitely murder, a lot of rivalries, jealousies — and just plain greed — all come to the fore. There are lots of clues and alibis for Grady to sort through, but it’s the personalizes of the people involved that Shriber takes the most care to build her novel upon, and I think she did a good job in doing so.

   The detective end of things is in fact wrapped up a tad too quickly, from my point of view, but all in all, as a mystery, it’s not at all bad. I don’t believe that Ione Sandberg Shriber should have fallen into the cracks as much as she seems to have.

       The Lt. Bill Grady series —

The Dark Arbor. Farrar 1940 [New York]
Head Over Heels in Murder. Farrar 1940 [New York]
Family Affair. Farrar 1941 [New York]
Murder Well Done. Farrar 1941 [Michigan]
A Body for Bill. Farrar 1942 [Ohio]
Invitation to Murder. Farrar 1943 [Cleveland, OH]
Pattern for Murder. Farrar 1944 [Cleveland, OH]
The Last Straw. Rinehart 1946 [California]