Scottish Painter Fyffe Christie - The Artist's Wife Reading, 1953 - source
I don't know why but lately I am definitely in a vintage sort of mood. I pick up newer books and put them down, then pick them up again and for whatever reason I put them down again and move on to vintage. (I know this too shall pass, but for now, I am indulging my whims.)
WHILE THE PATIENT SLEPT (1930) by Mignon G. Eberhart - a Nurse Sarah Keate book.
CLOUDS OF WITNESS (1926) by Dorothy Sayers - A Lord Peter Wimsey book.
MURDER IS SUGGESTED (1959) by Frances and Richard Lockridge - A Mr and Mrs North book.
MURDER BY THE BOOK (1963)by Frances and Richard Lockridge - A Mr and Mrs. North book.
THE FINAL DEDUCTION (1961) by Rex Stout - A Nero Wolfe book.
FEAR COMES TO CHALFONT (1942) by Freeman Wills Croft - an Inspector French book.
While I enjoyed all these books, I'm only reviewing two - briefly - since I am falling behind while working on another couple of posts to debut next week. Work. Work. Work. This was NOT supposed to be work. I know it doesn't seem like so much, but you know, occasionally it feels like it is. Whine. Whine. Cringe.
1) WHILE THE PATIENT SLEPT (1930) by Migon G. Eberhart
This is the second novel by Mignon G. Eberhart featuring private nurse and aging spinster (with gumption) Sarah Keate and boy does the book revel in the achy breaky creaking style of its long ago time. But despite that, I liked it very much. Why? Because it has the murder in a dark and spooky house routine down pat. Truth is, after awhile you don't even care who committed the murder, you're just enjoying all that malevolently mysterious and oh-so-sinister ambience. It's all over the top sinister and creepy and ominous and forbidding, the stuff that makes life worthwhile. Ha! Not to mention the cast of unpleasant characters which greet Nurse Sarah Keate on her arrival at out in the middle of nowhere Federie House on a dark and spooky night.
Sarah's patient is a wealthy old man who remains abed, asleep, for the entire book (well, at least until the very last couple of pages) - that's kind of creepy in itself because the murder takes place in the same room - hence the title of the book. So the murder occurs in full view of the nurse who's half asleep at the time. Commotion ensues, half-dressed suspects pour into the room, shadows jump, curtains move of their own volition, disbelief, suspicion, fainting, trembling, noises in the night. Not to mention a disappearing elephant. Well, a jade elephant carving which holds the secret to the entire thing, but an elephant nonetheless.
This book has everything: dark visages, dark doings, dark rooms, dark halls, dark stairs, (no ELECTRIC LIGHTS only candles of course because the owner of the house - the patient - doesn't believe in new-fangle). There is also a dark storm raging outside - needless to say - plus dark and dire circumstances within, all accompanied by requisite alarming noises. Hey, even the nurse heroine inserts a ghastly scream here and there. She's not immune to atmosphere. Neither was I. A very creepily enjoyable book. Oh, and the cop's name is Lance O'Leary. What more could you want?
2) CLOUDS OF WITNESS (1926) by Dorothy L. Sayer
This is the second book by Dorothy L. Sayers featuring her wonderfully irreverent detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. While his elder brother the stuff-necked Duke of Denver is being held for the murder of a n'er-do-well engaged to the Wimseys' young sister Polly, Lord Peter must rush to find the clues (even going so far as to fly across the Atlantic) which will exonerate Denver who has, so far, refused to speak in his own defense. The why and the wherefore of this are evident fairly soon to the reader, but it takes Lord Peter a rather longer time than one would think to figure things out. Perhaps if he hadn't been so emotionally involved?
Speaking of emotionally involved, this is the book in which Wimsey's policeman friend Parker displays his obvious feelings for said younger sister Polly. They will marry later on. As Wimsey insists, after Polly's misadventures with, first, a Bolshevik twerp and second, a card sharp who keeps a French mistress, his exalted family would welcome a policeman swain with open arms.
The Duke of Denver being a peer of the realm, cannot be tried in regular criminal court like everybody else. He must be tried by his peers (fellow titled gentlemen) in the House of Lords and to read about that august if arcane and fussy body coming together to try one of their own is one of the main pleasures of this book. The ensuing trial with Lord Peter bursting in at the last moment with the final clue clutched in his hand is a joy to read about.
There is also a harrowing to read, but brilliantly written life or death struggle in a fog-enshrouded bog which almost has Lord Peter and the faithful Bunter breathing their last gasp.
The trial and the bog incident make this a not to be missed Peter Wimsey book. I've since ordered a couple more titles from the library and they're waiting for me even as we speak. I'll be heading on down there tomorrow. I read these all many eons ago, but since I don't remember, it's like reading them again for the first time. You know how that goes.
I fully enjoyed the two Mr. and Mrs. North mysteries, MURDER BY THE BOOK and MURDER IS SUGGESTED (perfect warm weather reading) and will be looking for more since I've exhausted my library's pitifully few copies. These are the sorts of books one can read with half an eye on a sandwich and half an eye on the page. I'm also thinking, one of these days, of watching the episodes from the b/w television series starring Richard Denning and Barbara Britton which I think are available on youtube. Watched them when I was a kid and thought them the height of sophistication. Plus I had a crush on Richard Denning.
THE FINAL DEDUCTION was a Nero Wolfe book I'd forgotten completely about. In fact I really thought I hadn't read it until I began reading it. Not my favorite (the murder motive isn't very compelling) and not the best written of the lot. But still, any Nero Wolfe is better than none. I never regret dropping in on Wolfe and Archie, no matter what.
FEAR COMES TO CHALFONT was part of a three novel omnibus (sandwiched between the perfectly awful CASE OF THE DROWNING DUCK by Earl Stanley Gardner and MURDER IN THE WOODSHED, equally awful, by Anthony Gilbert) and because any Freeman Wills Croft is so hard to find these days, I probably enjoyed it more than I would otherwise. The style is pretty ancient and the plot sort of reminded me of Trent's Last Case which had similar characters and a similar kind of crime. I liked it as a curiosity and also because once upon a time my late ex-husband and I had a great deal of fun reading a bunch of Freeman Wills Croft train mysteries. Wouldn't mind getting my hand on some of those again.
Since it's Friday, don't forget to check in at Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other Forgotten (or Overlooked) Books other bloggers are talking about today. Patti has all the links.