Monday, August 3, 2015

A couple of "golden age" mysteries

Both Rue Morgue Press and the British Library Crime Classics (published in the U.S. by Poisoned Pen Press) have extensive lists of reprints of "golden age" mysteries.  I recently finished one book published by Rue Morgue and one by Poisoned Pen.

Our First Murder
Torrey Chanslor
Rue Morgue Press (1940; reprinted 2011)
ISBN 0-915230-50-x

The Beagle sisters (Amanda and Lutie) inherit a PI agency from their brother Ezekiel, and, with and their cousin (Martha Meecham), move to New York to take it over.  Their first case, is, of course, murder.  A headless body is found in the bed in the apartment of a young woman, by the wealthy young man who loves her.  Amanda and Lutie decide to investigate (and Martha narrates the story).  This was a fun book.  But the solution--which requires 22 pages of explanation by Lutie--is incredibly complicated.  The number of moving parts to the murder plot is more than anyone could possibly expect to actually work.  Still, assuming Our Second Murder is this good, I'm sorry Chanslor wrote only the two mysteries.  (I also have to say, I suspect that Richard and Frances Lockridge knew these books, because the Beagle sisters seen to be a possible inspiration for Pam North's maiden aunts from Cleveland, the Misses Whitsett, in Murder Comes First.) 

The Sussex Downs Murder
John Bude
Poisoned Pen Press (1940, reprinted 2015)

Superintendent Meredith investigates the case of the murder of John Rother, who owned a farm and lime kiln with his brother William.  It appears that John and William's wife Janet may have been involved.  Human bones are found in the lime kilns, but Meredith's investigation seems to be going nowhere--until he discovers that John had, for the 18 months prior to his death, spent most weekends elsewhere.  An investigation of that leads to a house owned  by one Jeremy Reed, who shows up only on weekends.  Janet decamps (and disappears).  William commits suicide--or is murdered.  As with Our First Murder, the murderer's plan is way too complicated to work outside of a book.  But the story is well told (save for way too many excursions into local dialect speech).  Bude had a 20+ reasonably successful career (1936-1956) as a crime writer.  (Incidentally, the setting is near Findon, which is also the home town of Ethelred Tessider, L.C. Tyler's mystery writer and reluctant sleuth.) 

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