Monday, October 26, 2020

Death Came Dancing (1940)

dustjackets.com

Major characters:
  • Barbara Locke, assistant to Tod Richmond
  • Tod Richmond, owner of Tropical Tourist Agency
  • Liane Richmond, his predatory wife
  • Peter Scotland, friend of Tod
  • Sidney Bonfield, British diplomat
  • Mark Fleming
  • Carol Fleming
  • Eric Thurman, antique dealer
  • Elisha Macomber, investigator
Locale: Panama City

Synopsis: Barbara Locke, our protagonist, has come to Panama seeking glamour and excitement. She takes a job at Tropical Tourist Agency, as an assistant to owner Tod Richmond. Tod's wife, Liane, is a predator and has her eyes and claws out toward various possibilities: Sidney Bonfield, British diplomat; and Mark Fleming.

Preparations are underway for a gala evening: the Pollera Ball. At a pre-gala cocktail gathering, Liane mentions she will be wearing her Tembleques, a priceless Panamanian gold hair ornament. The pairings for the ball indicate the dysfunction of the Richmond marriage: Tod is taking Barbara (instead of his wife), while Sidney is taking Liane.


Review:



 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Trouble at Turkey Hill (1946)


mysteriousbookshop.com
Major characters:

  • Elisha Macomber, selectman, investigator
  • Marcella Tracy, librarian, our narrator
  • Tad Marsh, returning Army veteran, manager of Turkey Hill Farm
  • Lays Marsh, his wife
  • Pershing Willis, returning Army veteran
  • Candy Pierce, Pershing's girlfriend
  • Pudgy Billins, returning Army veteran
  • Zaire Pinho, had affair with Tad
  • Harvey Winchester, owner of Turkey Hill Farm
  • Enoch Snow*, hired man at Turkey Hill Farm
  • Mattie Mason, cook at Turkey Hill Farm
  • Miss Marion Thorne, mysterious veiled lady

Locale: Penberty Island, off Cape Cod, MA.


Synopsis: The island community of Penberthy Township gathers at the dock to welcome three local boys returning from the war: Tad Marsh, Pershing Willis, and Pudgy Billings.


Harvey Winchester is the owner of Turkey Hill Farm and is looking forward to Tad’s return to his former job as farm manager. The other employees are Enoch Snow*, hired hand; and Mattie Mason, cook.


The boys are met at the dock by Tad’s wife Alyse March (who has never forgiven him for a previous affair with sultry Zaida Pinho), and Pershing’s girlfriend Candy Pierce (distant due to news of Pershing’s brief marriage overseas which ended with the wife’s death in childbirth).


A town dance is held in celebration that evening, but most of the attendees are busy shooting eye-daggers at each other. Miss Marion Thorne, who is always veiled, is injured by a thrown rock outside the dance.


The next morning librarian (and narrator) Marcella Tracy goes to Turkey Hill Farm to find Alyse dead from violence. While she and selectman Elisha Macomber investigate, another murder occurs at the farm.


Review: 


Elisha Macomber is sharper-tongued than in other books, and here enlists a local as both narrator and co-investigator. Petty jealousies abound between members of the small island community, and what should have been a happy homecoming for the three servicemen falls apart quickly. I had to make a sketch of who-loves-who as there are several affairs happening simultaneously. 


Elisha solves the case not by active investigation, but in his role as father-confessor for the town as various people reveal things to him. The final scene is exciting as two people struggle at the top of a cliff, alternately illuminated by the red and white beams from the lighthouse, a setting which reminded me of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty at their struggle on the cliff. 


One nitpick: In the denouement, Elisha reveals several facts which had not been shared with the reader.


*sound familiar? This is also a character name from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, which was written in 1945.