GEORGE WORTHING YATES – The Body That Wasn’t Uncle. William Morrow, hardcover, 1939. Reprint paperbacks: Dell #52, mapback edition, 1944; Dell #645, 1952.

   When a man off the train at Princeton Junction [New Jersey] heads straight across the snow for the Villars farm, the number one question asked later is, did he ever get there before he collapsed and died of atropine poisoning? And why did Sidney Villars claim the dead man to be his long-lost brother, Stephen Small?

   Ex-Scotland Yard Inspector Hazlitt Woar, now a private eye at loose ends in Bermuda, is called in by Katheren Meynard, a friend of the family who suspects fraud, but not murder. Woar, who speaks in riddles and short, clipped sentences, does a capable job of detection and fulfills while doing so a romance evidently begun in an earlier entry in the series, the courtship finally ending in a most curious fashion indeed.

   There is a class of detective novel, however, and this is one of them, in which you keep getting the distinct impression that the author is deliberately withholding information solely to keep the reader from solving the puzzle. The merely mysterious is emphasized, and not the mystery.

   Or in other words, characters are murkier than they need to be, and with murkier motives. To no avail, this time: there’s only one person the killer could be. Strangely enough, New Jersey trooper Lt. Gurney could have come straight from the pages of Black Mask, and equally so the ambitious, high-minded D.A. named Hellenberger.

   As for Woar himself, though, he has a tweedy and entirely British charm all his own.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
   Vol. 3, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1979. Very slightly revised.


BIBLIOGRAPHY:   [Adapted from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin.]

GEORGE WORTHING YATES. 1900-1975. see pseudonym Peter Hunt (books)

      There Was a Crooked Man (n.) Morrow 1936.
      The Body That Came by Post (n.) Morrow 1937.   [Hazlitt Woar]
      The Body That Wasn’t Uncle (n.) Morrow 1939.   [Hazlitt Woar.]
      If a Body (n.) Morrow 1941.   [Hazlitt Woar]

   In collaboration with Charles Hunt Marshall under the joint pen name of Peter Hunt, Yates also wrote three earlier works of detective or mystery fiction. Alan Miller, about whom I know nothing more, was the leading character in these, including the provocatively titled Murder Among the Nudists (1934).

[UPDATE] 01-25-11.   I can’t say this with any degree of certainty, but I believe it was the earlier Dell paperback that I read. What’s strange is that I’m almost sure that I remember the bookstore where I found the book, but all I remember of the story is what you’ve just read yourself in the review above.

[UPDATE #2] 01-29-11.   Murder Among the Nudists, I am pleased — and quite surprised — to be able to tell you, has recently been reprinted by Ramble House.   (Thanks for the tip go to Jamie Sturgeon.)