Friday, September 29, 2017

THE RIGHT SIDE by Spencer Quinn

This is the prolific Spencer Quinn's (aka Peter Abrahams) newest novel and perhaps the beginning of a new series, this time out with a moody, damaged female protagonist. Quinn is the mastermind behind the brilliant on-going Chet and Bernie books (which I love) and is also the author of a middle school series which I will probably be looking to become familiar with so I can share it with my grandchildren.

In THE RIGHT SIDE, we meet a fascinating new character, a nearly-ex soldier named LeAnne Hogan, a bitter and disoriented Army officer (awarded a Bronze Medal) with PTSD currently recuperating stateside at Walter Reed hospital. She has lost an eye to an i.u.d. explosion while serving in Afghanistan and has the appropriate unsettling scars which she hides behind an eye patch and large sunglasses. She also has an inoperable piece of shrapnell lodged in an inoperable spot in her skull. Prosthetic eyeballs come into play early on, but not till mid-book does LeAnne bother with one.

Disinclined to play nice, she is a suicidal handful of resentment, grief and simmering anger. As the story evolves we get more and more into her earlier life and how she's arrived at this particular moment in time. This is a woman seemingly born to be a soldier and now that's been taken away. LeAnne Hogan is having to re-introduce herself to herself with all the touchstones removed.

After her hospital room-mate and new friend Marci (who had lost a leg in Iraq) dies suddenly from a blood clot, Leanne takes off on her own, temporarily leaving the world of authority behind. This is not the easiest character to learn to care about because she doesn't give a damn whether anyone likes her or not, but she does become a person whose future concerns us and eventually, yeah, we come to like and understand her.

After ambling around the country by bus and then by beat up used car - she gets a brief visit out of the blue from her worried mother (the army had been tracking Leanne's phone) and they sort of arrange for LeAnne to move in with her and her husband. (LeAnne's parents had divorced years before.) But the idea doesn't grab LeAnne and she takes off again. Eventually she winds up in Belleville, Washington where she remembers that Marci's 8 year old daughter lives with her grandmother. Some vague unfinished business has drawn her there though Leanne isn't sure what that might be, her memory being shot to hell.

While staying at a motel's cabin in the woods, a large black dog shows up one night and adopts an unwilling Leanne - can't put it any better than that. There is a kind of mystical aura surrounding all this which works very well in the context of the story. Especially in the episode where the dog saves LeAnne by valiantly upsetting her suicide attempt. I think if I were the author I would have played up the mystics of dog meets woman even more. But why quibble, it works pretty good as is.

When LeAnn goes to visit the grandmother, she finds out that Marci's daughter is missing - has been since the day before - the day, coincidentally, of Marci's funeral. Despite the fact that the local constabulary dislike her butting in, LeAnne decides that she needs to look for the child.

With the help of Marci's first ex-husband (she had two) and the slightly intimidating presence of husband number two, LeAnne investigates and soon makes a startling discovery.

At the same time, the past comes calling in the form of Captain Stallings, army intelligence, who drops in (literally) to 'request' LeAnne's help (yet again) in ferreting out the truth of who was to blame for the incident in Afghanistan which not only wounded her but killed several others including her commanding officer. This episode which entails a quick flight to Kabul doesn't work as well as it should because it stops the previous story and in an odd way, seems almost pointless (unless it's going to be picked up in a sequel). But again, I kept reading because no matter what I was engaged.

 Men writing women doesn't always work, but in truth works better than women writing men (I don't know why) and here, we instantly forget that the author is male. He gets this woman and how her interior operates and that's that.

If you're not familiar with Spencer Quinn, that's too bad. He's a wonderfully inventive writer and if all he'd ever done in his life was create Chet the dog and Bernie the private eye, that would have earned him a trip to Valhalla in my view. This new character he's trying on for size is definitely someone I will want to visit in future if and when another book featuring LeAnne Hogan appears.

It's Friday once again, so don't forget to check in at author Patricia Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what forgotten or overlooked books other writers are talking about today.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: DEATH HAS DEEP ROOTS (1951) by Michael Gilbert

Remember when I went on a Michael Innes tear? Well, I'm kind of doing the same thing with Michael Gilbert, so bear with me. This is the sixth (or maybe the seventh) of Gilbert's books I've read so far - and I'm currently also in the middle of some of his Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens short stories.  Though there was one clunker back in the beginning right after SMALLBONE DECEASED (a brilliant classic), the rest have been excellent in varying degrees. Kind of a revelation really, because for a writer this good to have languished undiscovered by me for so long is odd, considering that Gilbert wasn't entirely unknown by everyone else AND he'd already written one classic. You'd think I would have stumbled over him at some point or other. But better later than not at all - right?

Michael Gilbert is kind of unique in that he didn't write the same book over and over -  not that that's always a bad thing, in fact there are some writers I return to over and over precisely because I know what to expect story-wise, but not Michael Gilbert. With this author, you just never know what you're going to get. He writes more in the thriller style than whodunit but somehow manages both equally well. Not all his protagonists are cut from the same cloth though all, so far, have been English, reasonably pragmatic and competent. A bit like Eric Ambler, but maybe not as dry and removed.

DEATH HAS DEEP ROOTS is set a few years after WWII and concerns the plight of a young French woman, Mlle Victoria Lamartine - a minor player in the Resistance - on trial in London, accused of the murder of Major Thoseby an ex-lover and father of her deceased child. Thoseby too had worked for the Resistance, though in a more important capacity and it was during that work that he is supposed to have hooked up with Mlle Lamartine at a lonely farm in the then dangerous French countryside teeming with partisans and Nazis.

But the accused denies any involvement with Thoseby and in fact, claims that the real father of her child was a young English flyer named Wells who was last seen in the clutches of the Gestapo on the same night as the residents at the farm were betrayed and rounded up. Later that same night, an unsuspecting Mlle Lamartine had stumbled right into the Germans on her way back from an errand. Yet somehow she survived incarceration and wound up storm tossed and jobless in London after the war. Very sympathetically a French refugee service found her a job as a receptionist at a small hotel providentially owned and staffed by people from the same area of France as the accused.

When Major Thoseby turns up dead in his room at the hotel (having gone there to meet Mlle Lamartine for reasons unknown) she is almost immediately placed under arrest by the officious and short-sighted Inspector Partridge. Later, the case will receive guidance from the author's series detective, Inspector Hazelrigg,  who hesitates to show up Partridge, but wants to see justice done. His presence in this book is minor but important.

Up front, the accused looks guilty. She seems to be the only one with any previous connection to Thoseby and she's the only one who could have gone into his room and stabbed him at a time when everyone else is accounted for. In fact, no one could have gone upstairs and entered Thoseby's room without having been seen by staff and/or guests. This almost seems like a locked room murder, except that it isn't. Mlle Lamartine insists she had no motive to kill Major Thoseby as he was not the man who had abandoned her and her then unborn child.

But it's obvious that the present crime harkens back to the past in Basse Loire during the war at the French farm when all were betrayed and rounded up by the Gestapo.

After a short postponement when new counsel is brought on board at the accused's last minute request, the case develops a kind of back and forth rhythm between antics in court and the actual nuts and bolts of the investigation. The trial moves swiftly forward with the tenacious Mr. Macrea in charge for the defense and the law firm of Markby, Wragg and Rumbold, Solicitors of Coleman Street in the energetic personification of junior partner Noel Anthony Pontarlier Rumbold (known as Nap) traveling to France to track down any possible leads. The sense of France just a few years after the war is well established as is the notion that old crimes are not dead and done for.

I am not a huge fan of shifting stances and points of view and the back and forth of locales, except when it's handled expertly. Michael Gilbert is a master at this sort of sleight of hand.

Intrigues, lies, shifting alibis and courtroom theatrics abound in London while in France, Nap follows various and nebulous leads at the risk of his life. In the meantime back at the office, his father Rumbold senior, frets in very British stiff upper lip style. Author Michael Gilbert is so good at creating these sorts of competent men who aren't flashy but have just enough charisma to entertain. He's not bad at fashioning intriguing women either.

What can I say? A terrific book set in a time that still fascinates me.

It's Friday and this week, Todd Mason is doing Forgotten Book hosting duties at his excellent blog,
Sweet Freedom.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Salon: The Astounding Work of Contemporary Canadian Painter Judy Garfin

Judy Garfin is an extraordinary Canadian painter whose majority of work reveals the close-up entanglement and odd scattered beauty of nature, often mixed with a kind of hard-edged fantastical twitch - as when she adds birds to the mix. She specializes in dense detail and texture and elusive hints of mysterious forces at work.

To my mind, she seems the perfect painter for those of us who enjoy reading mysteries.

"In 1990, I returned to canvas for large works and painted on panel for the smaller ones. I painted images of dried and living plant forms to describe an interior world rather than to represent external nature. These gardens, in their concrete description and diversity of forms, textures and patterns, are fictions that tell stories about living things....

My method of working is fused to the content of my painting. I work on a white surface, finishing each element before moving on to the next. There is no underpainting or sketch. Each work grows into its own presence, element by element, on an undifferentiated field." 

Judy Garfin

I discovered Garfin's paintings online (as I have done with many other artists whose work had remained unknown to me until recently) which is why I say, thank goodness for the internet (is it still called that?). If it were good for nothing else but helping us find hidden works of art by brilliant artists, the thing would have been worth all the other angst attached to it. Almost without my consciously knowing it, I also seem to have widened my knowledge and experience of art and find that the most thrilling things of all.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: THE HOUSE AT SEAS'S END by Elly Griffiths

This is not really a 'forgotten' book, but maybe an overlooked one. I hadn't heard of it until very recently myself. It is the third entry (and possibly my favorite) in an excellent series I've just begun reading with great enthusiasm. Actually I've already read six of the books (my local library being very handy to have close-by) because I can read quite quickly when I want to. The books reminds me, in a very singular way, of Julia Spencer Fleming's Russ Van Alstyne and the Rev. Claire Fergusson mysteries set in a cold and snowy upstate New York town. Those of you who are familiar with those books will get what I'm talking about in a moment. Those of you who haven't, well add another great series to your list. Besides this one, I mean.

The main characters in Griffith's series are involved in a long term 'will they or won't they ever wind up together' relationship in which a married cop and a single professional woman are drawn to each other despite the fact that the cop is happy enough in his marriage and loves his wife. Hey, these things happen especially during a very intense criminal investigation in which a child is the victim and turbulent emotions are running high. (See the first book in the series, THE CROSSING PLACES.)

The result of this particular indiscretion is that in this third book, Ruth Galloway is just back from maternity leave and struggling with the dual difficulties of being a new single mother and a Dr. of Archaeology working with the police while also teaching at an university.

But you won't hold it against the doctor, that's how sympathetically her character is written (again in common with Julia Spencer Fleming) and her motivations are understandable. As are Harry Nelson's (the cop involved) mixed feelings of guilt, desire and confusion. For this reason, I'd recommend that the series be read in order of publication. I did exactly that. The various character relationships will be richer for you taking the time to do it this way.

However, if you don't want to, it's not the end of the world but you'd be missing out on the behind the scenes details of ongoing plot lines developed over time by an intelligent writer who has obvious affection for her characters and their various plights. Everything here is evolving book by book and as one might expect, the reader (as well as the characters involved) will begin to take sides.

Dr. Galloway is a forensic archaeologist and head of the archaeology department at the University of Norfolk. Norfolk is a county in mostly rural East Anglia, U.K. The area is bordered by the North Sea and by an estuary known as The Wash. So you can imagine that winters in this section of England might be a trifle frigid and windblown. Most of the books I've read so far seem to have plots which unravel during rainy, cold, icy, winters which add enormously to the atmospherics.

The mystery is almost an afterthought, if you will, an embellishment to the memorable characters which I grew to care about more and more. Plus there's a bleakness of mood and setting which practically make a hot cup of tea a necessity while reading. All good, in my view. And since I'm a big fan of archaeologists in general, I do gravitate towards them when they add solving murder mysteries to their resume.

Now to the plot:

When erosion reveals six skeletons - hands tied behind their backs - in a ravine on a remote Norfolk beach, Dr. Galloway is called in to take a look. Bones are her specialty and she soon determines that these male skeletons are of German extraction. So the cops are dealing with a possible war crime - the coast having been manned by home troops on the look-out for an invasion early in the British part of the war 70 or so years before.

The on-going erosion not only reveals long buried secrets, but continues to peel away at the ground beneath the property perched atop the cliff. The few inhabitants of Sea's End House know that they must soon abandon their home since it will eventually fall victim to the sea. Jack Hastings, the current owner lives there with his elderly mother and his troubled granddaughter. His father, Buster Hastings, was a member of the Home Guard during the war but apparently the family knows next to nothing about six dead Germans found on the beach.

The problem with old crimes is that possible witnesses are surely dead or almost so which makes learning what might have happened that much more difficult. When a veteran in a nursing home is questioned, he winds up dead shortly thereafter. Then another elderly veteran turns up dead in his own home. Whatever information they might have revealed is buried with them. Someone is moving quickly to stop the true story of what happened beneath the cliffs from coming out. Eventually a German journalist shows up looking for answers. As Nelson and Ruth consider that the locals are not telling all they know, another murder occurs unleashing the possibility that Ruth's baby girl, Kate, might be in danger. The last quarter of the book, a fast-paced anxiety inducing race against time in the middle of a coastal snow storm, makes for terrific reading.

Alongside the clever mystery which, by the way, is loaded with clues (though far-fetched, I especially like the clue of the bunch of mystery books left to someone in a will) just in case you're into trying to solve the case ahead of Nelson and Ruth, we get further visits from a continuing cast - various characters who are not only memorable but are the sorts of people one wouldn't mind knowing.

For instance: Cathbad the druid, a good friend to Ruth and an immensely likable hovering presence in a purple cloak. And Shona, a not as likable friend who doesn't know anything about babies, but is happy enough to babysit when desperation calls for it. And Detective Sergeant David Clough, the not-so-politically correct detective and McDonald's aficionado who grows on you as the books progress. And Detective Sergeant Judy Johnson, the female cop of the team who is engaged to be married to her childhood sweetheart as she finds herself intrigued by the guy in the purple cloak.

Author Elly Griffiths makes us care about all these imperfect characters in a way which gives them additional life, her writing style helps the story develop in a very visual way - the way the best books do. I know that devoting oneself to a series takes a dedicated amount of time, but I wouldn't be recommending this particular series if I didn't think it was worth it. And it's not as though there are thirty books involved - there are only 10 including next year's book. AND there is a handy dandy omnibus with the first three mysteries available. I mean, things couldn't get any easier.

And since this is Friday, don't forget to check in at author Patricia Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: WHO KILLED THE CURATE? (1944) by Joan Coggin

When this book was recommended on someone's recent blog post I first thought it was one of those modern charmless ultra-cozies being written by everyone these days, but turns out I was wrong. Joan Coggins is a Golden Ager - who knew? I forget where I read the review but whoever it was - A BIG THANK YOU! The book was a joy from beginning to end.

Quote from the backcover: "Coggin writes in the spirit of Nancy Mitford and E.M. Delafield. But the books are mysteries, so that makes them perfect." Katherine Hall Page, mystery author.

Actually this is an ultra-cozy, but loaded with charm and the little delights that writers of that era were so clever about. Why hadn't I known about her work? It turns out that Joan Coggin was not the most prolific of writers, she wrote four mysteries and then stopped. She also wrote a few 'girl books' under the pseudonym of Joanne Lloyd - books with titles like JANE RUNS AWAY FROM SCHOOL and BETTY OF TURNER HOUSE - that sort of thing. After the mysteries published from 1944 - 1949, she wrote no more for thirty years and died in 1980. I can't find any other book listings for her online. For whatever reason four was all she wrote and maybe that's why she never rose up the ranks of fame and mystery-writing fortune. So now it's up to us to spread the word about her talents and her delightful heroine, Lady Lupin Lorrimer Hastings.

Remember how I've previously mentioned books with certain titles will always catch my eye - well, who could resist the allure of WHO KILLED THE CURATE? Not me.

I love a good mystery set in an English village just before or during WWII, especially when it's loaded with the types of villagers that in real life would drive you crazy, but in book form are highly entertaining. AND oh by the way, Christmas happens in the middle of it all. I mean, come on, what could be better?

Lady Lupin Lorrimer is a young bored about town member of the 'smart set' when at a London party she first meets Andrew Hastings, the vicar of Glen Marks Parish. She is in her early twenties, he is in his early forties. It is love at first sight to the consternation of friends and family.  Before long  'Loops' as she's known by her close friends, marries the handsome vicar and off they go (after a proper honeymoon) to his quiet house in a quiet country village in Sussex and a life of quiet parish doings.

Unfortunately Lady Lupin is not sure how a vicar's wife is supposed to behave since she's never actually spent much time around clergy or churches. Her duties seem strange and utterly bewildering and life at the vicarage, instead of being the too quiet life she'd been dreading is instead full of social invitations, dinner invitations, tea parties, sherry parties and villagers coming and going at all hours seeking advice and wanting Lady Lupin to join this committee or that or plan one fete or another without hardly giving the poor girl a chance to breathe.

From the back cover: 'She's hopelessly at sea at the meetings of the Mother's Union, Girl Guides, Temperance Society. Nonetheless, she's determined to make her husband Andrew proud of her - or, at least, not to embarrass him too badly.' 

It doesn't help that Lady Lupin is a scatterbrain who lives up to her nickname of Loops. However, since she is charming, endearing and utterly guileless, she is not faulted for her lack of brilliance. The vicar is besotted with her and she with him and so she's determined not to be undone by expectations except occasionally, but then she thinks how life without Andrew wouldn't suit her at all, and she buckles down to do her best to get things right.

The villagers welcome Lady Lupin with open arms, thankful their vicar has at last brought home a wife even if she is not exactly what they had imagined for him.

The setting is just right: Glanville, a charming village in the English countryside of Sussex, a warm and comfortable rectory with cozy nooks and crannies, working fire places and comfy chairs, the requisite English garden and an exhausting array of assorted villagers to keep things hopping.

Much of the first half of the book is taken up with Lady Lupin's hapless forays into the life of the parish - often just carried along willing to do her duty, reluctant to give offense, nudged here and there,  as things somehow come together and work out in the end. No one seems to really mind Lady Lupin's misunderstandings and occasional faux pas probably because she is, first and foremost, a lady. And being an attractive young woman doesn't hurt.

"The evening on which she was to go to her first dinner party found her rather nervous. She had bought two black evening dresses while they had been in Paris on their honeymoon, laboring under the delusion that they were suitable for a vicar's wife. Andrew was not sure of their suitability, but he liked seeing her in them.

"How do I look, Andrew?" she asked, turning from her looking-glass as he came into the room. Her fair hair had been brushed back until it looked like silver, she had really put on very little rouge or lipstick, and her dress was black; but somehow she didn't look like a clergyman's wife. Andrew burst out laughing, then he caught her up in his arms and kissed her until she had to recomb her hair and repowder her face.

Andrew sighed as he watched her. "To think," he said, "that after sixteen years of blameless priesthood, that this should happen to me! You don't look like a wife at all, least of all a vicar's wife. Come along, we mustn't be late. When they say seven forty-five in Glanville, the mean seven forty-five."

The rest of the cast of characters include Lupin's close London friends Duds and Tommy Lethbridge who, currently traveling, will show up by invitation to spend a few days, alongside the vicar's nephew, Jack Scott, who happens to be a secret service agent on leave and visiting over Christmas.  The curate in the title, Mr. Young is not the most likable sort but is devoted 'to the adventure of Christianity...I should like to see a missionary box in every home, I should like children to spend their leisure hours in reading lives of missionaries; I should like every boy and girl in the parish to grow up with the wish to be missionaries themselves."  See, that's the sort of thing that after awhile just gets to be too tedious - no wonder the guy gets bumped off.

Other villagers worth noting are the ascerbic and witty Diane Lloyd, a 38 year old writer of children's books currently writing a detective story, and her room-mate 20 year old June Stuart whom Lupin thinks she'll turn into a friend. In fact, Lupin likes both women and is therefore most terribly upset with Diane is first suspected of poisoning Mr. Young, the curate. She has a strong motive which you will probably deduce rather quickly.

But almost everyone in the village sooner or later comes under suspicion (for a brief moment, even Andrew!) including the single-minded Mrs. Brown wife of the town doctor, unable to keep her servants for long and always on the lookout for that rarity - an unemployed maid, churchwardens Mr. and Mrs. Grey - she who is involved in almost every social and/or church activity in the village - they are the couple with whom the unfortunate curate had tea on the fateful day and in whose house he died, there's also Phyllis Gardner whose chief interest in life is the Girl Guides and a pimply young fellow named Lancelot who is sure he's going to be arrested at any moment. And of course a whole gaggle of girl guides themselves and a bunch churchy ladies, all in the habit of walking in and out of the vicarage looking in vain for Lady Lupin to take the lead in all manner of activities of which she knows nothing. All very nice people, very respectable and not the sorts of people who would ever think of committing murder.

But you know what Agatha Christie had to say about respectable people.

So when murder does come to Glanville, what else is Lady Lupin to do but turn sleuth especially since Andrew's nephew Jack the secret service agent, is on the premises willing to lend a hand. Her motive is that she doesn't want any of her friends to be the murderer because everyone's too nice and anyway even if she does find out who killed the curate, she's sure they must have a very good reason.

Christmas comes and goes and the day after (Boxing Day in England) is philosophized on by Lady Lupin:

"What I like about Boxing Day," said Lupin, "is that no one can expect one to do anything. The shops are shut, so even if there is no food, one doesn't have to go out and get any. One's friends are occupied in writing thank-you letters, and the poor are usually feeling ill after their one square meal of the year, so one is bound to have a little peace for once."

But not for long.

WHO KILLED THE CURATE? is lots of fun abetted by lots of laughs in service of a pretty good whodunit. Though the primary reason for liking the book is Lupin Lorrimer Hastings herself, with ambience a close second, not to mention the sorts of English village goings on that seem quaint and engaging and oddly attractive - at least to me. Not serious literature by any means, but still a treat and I'll be reading the other three in the series sooner rather than later.

Once again it's Friday, so don't forget to check in at author Patricia Abbott's host blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: THE CURSE OF THE BRONZE LAMP (1945) by Carter Dickson

Yes, I can hear you saying: But Yvette, you swore you would not be reading anymore Carter Dickson books for awhile. Yes, I did and I gave good enough reasons why in my recent post. But as you all know, I am a woman of capricious nature and faced with a book entitled THE CURSE OF THE BRONZE LAMP – what would you have me do??
I’m not made of steel, you know.

And besides, Sir Henry Merrivale is not, in general, his usual obnoxious self in this one. But I didn’t know that going in and I groaned thinking what I might be in for, but damn me if I could resist the lure of the title. And when I saw the word ‘Egypt’ in the synopsis – it was a done deal. I mean, this is the sort of thing that makes my heart beat just a little faster – THE CURSE OF….or THE MURDER OF….or THE ADVENTURES OF…or THE DEATH OF… and remember MURDER ON SAFARI?? These are the sorts of titles that make my heart go pitter-pat.

(I’ve got another great title coming up next week, but it’s not a Carter Dickson and I’m still in the middle of reading it.)

Hint: Plot-wise, THE CURSE OF THE BRONZE LAMP has something specifically in common with another Dickson/Merrivale book, AND SO TO MURDER. Though one takes place in a movie studio in London and the other takes place in Egypt and then in a big old stately manor house in the English countryside. I can say no more.

If the following doesn’t have you itching to get your hands on THE CURSE OF THE BRONZE LAMP, then your idea of a fun read and my idea of one are irreconcilable. 

In 1934-35, a group of British archaeologists headed by a Professor Gilray and the Earl of  Severn had discovered the tomb of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh on the west bank of the Nile. The world was thrilled. Reporters eager to rhapsodize about the riches supposedly discovered descended on the site. Remembering what happened when the tomb of King Tut had been unearthed a few years earlier, they searched about for a curse angle that would thrill their readers. They wouldn’t have long to wait.

In the second year of the dig, Professor Gilray was stung by a scorpion and promptly died. The curse angle was on with a vengeance. Was it the tomb or the bronze lamp that killed the professor? Or both? Severn and his daughter Helen as well as his associate Sandy Robertson (who happens, of course, to be in love with Helen) all poo-poo the curse.

But now Lord Severn, feeling a little under the weather, insists on sending his daughter along with the infamous bronze lamp, home to Severn Hall. He and Robertson will follow along at a later date.

At the train station surrounded by reporters Lord Severn's daughter emphatically states that there is no curse and all she wants to do is get back to Severn Hall and place the bronze lamp on the mantelpiece in her room. But a local soothsayer named Alim Bey, declares (on the train platform in full view of reporters) that Lady Helen will not reach that room alive.

What fun.

Meanwhile Sir Henry Merrivale traveling on the same train is also headed back to London after his own trip to Egypt.  Not so coincidentally, Lady Helen is sharing the carriage with ‘the old man.’ She garbles some nonsense about curses and gossip and reporter speculation and could he (Merrivale) in his wisdom give her some advice but before he can say much she suddenly has a change of heart and decides she doesn’t want Merrivale’s help at all. And you thought I was capricious.

Sir Henry will later weave this odd moment into his who-did-what-to-whom theory as he puts together the truth of the entire matter.

But before that happens, we have a disappearing Lady Helen who vanishes as soon as she enters Severn Hall. Then we have the matter of a missing portrait AND a mysterious man named Beaumont who shows up wanting to purchase the bronze lamp. Then there is the matter of Kit Farrell, another young gent in love with Helen who is frantic to discover what has happened to her. Not to mention their mutual friend Audrey Vane who happens to be in love with the aforementioned Sandy Robertson – so lots of romantic complications as well as mysterious doings. Not the least of which are the missing gold artifacts which disappeared from the original Egyptian haul and are nowhere to be found – have they made their way illegally to London?

Inspector Masters and Sir Henry are soon on the scene as the merry mix-up gets more and more complicated and yet another person vanishes.

This is one of those hidden in plain sight stories in which the clues are pretty fairly distributed except for the identity of the bad guy which, in the end, seems to me to be more of a ‘close your eyes and pick a killer’ moment than anything really logical. But other than that, a terrific book with plenty of page-turning diabolics to keep those of us who love this sort of thing, reading late into the night.

Since this is Friday, don't forget to check in at author Patricia Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today.