Sunday, July 27, 2014

Arrow Pointing Nowhere by Elizabeth Daly

Arrow Pointing Nowhere by Elizabeth Daly is an extremely entertaining vintage mystery.
I just finished Arrow Pointing Nowhere by Elizabeth Daly. This was an interesting tale, with Henry Gamadge receiving a coded message delivered in a suspicious way. A crumpled ball of paper was thrown out of the window off the Fenway's house in New York City, and a suspicious mailman who saw a crumpled ball of paper in the same place every day, picked up the paper. After some investigation, Gamadge figured out that someone was in trouble in the Fenway house, but wasn't able to get out to communicate openly with Gamadge. When Gamadge finagles an invitation to the house, he finds the atmosphere thick with tension. Mr. Blake Fenway admits that a shipment of books had arrived from his country estate, sent by Hilda Grove, the niece of a woman who was a companion to Fenway's disabled sister-in-law, Mrs. Fenway. The book had views, or pictures, of estates, and the one of the original Fenway estate, that had been torn down, was missing. As Gamadge goes to leave, Mr. Mott Fenway, secretly talks Gamadge into coming back later in the evening to secretly look for the missing picture. Mott suspects that Mrs. Fenway's son, Alden, suffering from mental retardation, now intellectual disability, ripped out the picture. They fear that Mott and his niece, and Blake Fenway's daughter, Caroline are suspicious that Alden ripped out the picture, and perhaps killed Caroline's pet dog. Of course, they are also suspicious of Craddock, a young male friend of the Groves, who has been injured in the war, and is taking care of Alden. Gamadge agrees to come back, but first, he heads out to the country to talk to Hilda, under an assumed name. When Gamadge returns to town for his rendezvous at the Fenway house, he arrives to find that Mott Fenway had fallen from his attic room window. Gamadge suspects that Hilda Grove might be in danger, and his associate gets into the country house to find a booby trap set to possibly kill Hilda. There is more murder and surprise before the book ends, and I don't want to ruin the mystery by disclosing too much.

I enjoyed reading Arrow Pointing Nowhere, and i thought the mystery was much stronger than Evidence of Things Seen. Arrow Pointing Nowhere was published in 1944, and there are references to WWII and the shortages in gas and other items. I did not figure out the mystery, and I was surprised at the twist at the end. Unfortunately, I might not get much opportunity to read more Elizabeth Daly, but I will keep my eyes open for her books.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Evidence of Things Seen by Elizabeth Daly

Evidence of Things Seen by Elizabeth Daly
I was reading something on one of the mystery blogs recently, and it mentioned that Agatha Christie liked the writings of Elizabeth Daly. Elizabeth Daly was an American mystery author who was a contemporary of Christie. In recent years, Felony and Mayhem has reissued the Daly mysteries, which feature Henry Gamadge, a gentlemen sleuth. I thought I would check out some of the books at my local library, just to see if I liked the books. After all, I've never read Daly. Well, I found out that it's incredibly difficult to find Daly's books in my library system, which is quite a large one: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. I was able to get two of the recent books in reissue. They have a few others in large print, and I think that I might have to resort to those to read more.

Evidence of Things Seen,written in 1943, had an interesting supernatural plot, so I started with it. Henry Gamadge is off working for his country during World War II. His wife, Clara, goes off to spend the summer in a rented cottage with some family friends. Gamadge is to join them when he is done with his work. Well, the friends are delayed, and Clara is alone in the cottage with her help, Maggie. They both start to see a mysterious figure who approaches the house, but never quite comes close enough to talk to. Clara and Maggie start to think that it's the ghost of a woman who died in the cottage a year earlier. What adds to the ghostly feeling is that the woman renting the cottage is the sister of the dead woman, and she appears to be unwilling to enter the house. On the Fourth of July, as the Clara hosts some local neighbors, The sister, Alvira Radford, winds up getting hurt in a carriage accident, when her horse is spooked by what appears to be the ghostly appearance of Alvira's sister. Clara helps get Alvira into the cottage, and calls the doctor. Meanwhile the neighbors, the Hunters, come for dinner. Alvira's ankle is broken, and she can't be taken back home. While Alvira is sleeping due to a morphine shot, Clara and the Hunters take up a watch over her. Fanny Hunter goes first, and Clara replaces her. While Clara is sitting beside Alvira, a previously blocked outside door opens, and the spooky sister seems to appear. Clara keeps her eye on the image and calls for help. When Phin Hunter answers Clara's cries, he says that Alvira is dead! Strangled! Did the ghostly sister somehow kill Alvira, possibly in revenge for Alvira murdering her. The finger of blame seems to point at Clara, and fortunately for her, Gamadge, finishes his job and comes to her aid.

I have to admit that like Gamadge, who admits he knew who the murderer was when he first heard the story, the murderer was quite obvious. Don't get me wrong; the story was entertaining. However, the mystery wasn't very complex. Clara comes across as a weak person who needs her husband to help her. She even seems to be mindless to a degree. When Gamadge suggests going back to the cottage, she says that she will do it if he wants to go there. I'm going to start on the second books Arrow Pointing Nowhere to see if the solution to the mystery is as obvious as it was in Evidence of Things Seen.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
When Mary Stewart died recently, I looked over her bibliography, and I noticed a book that I had never read. It was Touch Not the Cat. The book was published in 1976. Most of her romantic suspense books were written in the 1950s and 60s, and they were the cream of the crop, in my opinion. Touch Not the Cat has a supernatural feel to it, with Byrony Ashley having a telepathic connection to someone that she grows to refer to as her lover. It seems that the Ashleys have a history of family members having a psychic connection to others in the family. So Byrony believes that her lover is one of her three male cousins. The two elder are twins, Emory and James, and the younger is Francis. Byrony isn't sure who she has the connection with, but her lover contacts her one night while she is in Maderia to let her know that her father is in serious trouble. It turns out that he has been hit by a car while at a German convalescent hospital. Before Byrony can reach her father, he has died. He did leave her a cryptic message about William's Brooke, hidden letters, and warning Byrony to beware. With his death, the Ashley estate skips Byrony and passes to the next male heirs, Byrony's ailing uncle and her cousin, Emory. Byrony still has a say, however, because the estate is bound in a trust, which states that all family members must agree to the sale of land or possessions. Byrony's father personally owned a cottage and some land on the estate, and these pass to Byrony. When Byrony goes back to the estate to spread her father's ashes, she notices that some valuable smaller pieces are missing from the estate. Were they taken by tourists on guided tour of the estate, or the rich Underhills who are renting the estate for a year? Or was one of her cousins? And who is her mysterious lover? Byrony's emotions are confused, and she turns to local farm hand Rob, as a listening ear.

The story was interesting, but I found myself wanting to grab Byrony and shake her. She puts herself into dangerous situations because she trusts her relatives too much, even when it seems that they may have criminal intent. Touch Not the Cat is not one of my favorite Stewart novels. It's a decent romantic suspense, but it's not as satisfying as the early Stewart novels.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Death of a Hollow Man by Caroline Graham

Death of a Hollow Man by Caroline Graham is a great fix for any lover of the Midsomer Murders series.
I am a huge fan of the Midsomer Murders television series. I've watched the episode more than once, and I have a deep affection for Tom Barnaby, and now for his cousin John Barnaby. The surprising thing is that I really haven't read the books. I say it that way because I tried to read Death at Badger's Creek, and I just had difficulty getting into it. Because I have been re-watching the series as I exercise every day, i decided to give the books another try. This time, I started with Death of a Hollow Man. This is the second book in the series, and it's also the second episode in the series. The book revolves a production of Amadeus put on by the Causton Amateur Dramatic Society. Of course, Joyce Barnaby is part of the group, and Tom Barnaby gets dragged into helping with scenery. There's only one murder in the book (and TV episode). Esslyn Carmichael, playing Salieri, really does cut his throat with the prop razor. It was supposed to be taped up so Esslyn could safely drag it across his throat, but someone removed the tape. it could have been anyone: his unfaithful wife, her lover, his ex-wife, or any of the others that he bullied or put down on a regular basis. Since Tom Barnaby was in the audience for the show, he jumps right into solving the mystery. I won't give any more details on the plot, but I will say that it closely follows most of the plot points in the TV episode.

I found myself really enjoying the book. Graham did a very nice job with the personalities in the story. I felt that I was really getting a picture in my mind of each of them. The solution to the mystery was not very obvious. The only reason I knew whodunit was because I had watched the episode. I'm not sure if all the clues were there. As I mentioned, I knew who the murderer was so I was looking for the clues to identify the person.

One thing that absolutely shocked me was Gavin Troy. In the book, he's a married redhead! What the heck! That is not Daniel Casey (the actor) by a long shot! However, the personality was similar. I think that Troy in the TV series is more likable than the one in the book. However, it didn't ruin my enjoyment of the book. I had such a fun time reading it that I requested some of the others from the library. Caroline Graham did not write many books, and the ones she did seem to have been turned into episodes on the series. If you love Midsomer Murders, you should definitely give the books a try.