Deja View

A new section on the blog–Reviews of old titles, many from the Golden Age Of Crime Fiction.To find a copy of this or any other of the Deja View books–your local used bookstore is a great place to start. (The Murder In Retrospect is the icon for this group of posts)

Murder Gives a Lovely Light

by John Stephen Strange

John Stephen Strange is not a John nor a Stephen, and not very strange come to think of it. Like many female authors in the beginnings of crime fiction,  in an attempt to be taken serious as a writer, and or be

published , Ms. Strange took the nom de plume of a male. I’ve no idea why the demure aristocratic sounding Dorothy Stockbridge Tillet decided to become Strange. But a little bit of oddity never hurt anyone and in her case it spawned a fairly long list of mysteries.

Murder Gives a Lovely Light was originally published by the Doubleday Crime Club in 1941. I don’t possess a first edition as I do many of the Crime Clubs. They are becoming more difficult to find than my sneaky hidden ferrets. I rescued the Collier reprint from being sacrilegiously tossed out as garbage on a dirty New York City sidewalk by a then mystery bookshop owner, later to unearth it among the rubble of my apartment and set out to scan what I thought would be a mercy reading.

I’m pleased to admit Ms. Strange need no pity read from me. The book was immediately absorbing and very very clever. The setting is Gramercy Park in NYC and has the requisite rich elderly invalid victim, and the usual dilettante suspects. Although the cliches may appear to create a typical drawing room mystery, an undercurrent of tension keeps the characterizations from being one dimensional or caricatures, and creates a plot more akin to a psychological thriller than a straight whodunit. Although, the whodunit is very much part of the satstisfaction of the read.

Simeon Rede dies and no one is particularly surprised. neither his lovely younger wife (hummm) nor loving daughter thing a think about it–he had a heart condition for years. The theft of a necklace and a discharged maid leads Inspector Honegger of the police to delve a little deeper and. . .

I can’t resist quoting the jacket blurb obtained by The Doubleday Crime Club Compendium by the late Ellen Nehr:

“along the path was strewn a fur-hooded evening coat, two poison pen letters, two clocks, one with a tickling chime, one with a Westminster chime, and most important of all, a huge billboard overlooking Time Square.” Just too wonderfully wacky for words.

Everyone should try to bask in the light the strange Dorothy Tillet  provides in this mystery.

PS. There are multiple listings on of this title some at very cheap prices.

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