I can see most of you shaking your heads and wondering, where the heck I found this title. The Doubleday Crime Club, of course! All manner of oddball interesting and never heard from again titles lurk within their vaults.
Published in 1937, Doubleday must have thought they had a great series in the making, because the extended title included “Introducing that old Battle Ax, Adelaide Adams.” And I can understand why they may have thought that way. Murder A La Richelieu is a laugh riot, character filled, atmospheric puzzler, with the typical, yet unusual heroine, Adelaide, an ancient spinster in her 50s!
Unfortunately, only one other title featured Miss Adams, There is No Return and although good, not as sparkling as the first. It to0 is set in a confined area–a remote hotel, if I recall. I’ve no idea if Ms. Blackmon decided to no longer write, or Doubleday declined to publish, or worse, Ms. Blackmon died. (Answers, almost–I found an excellent article on this book and Ms. Blackmon which I will add at the end–well worth reading)
Set in a residence hotel in an unspecified Southern City. (a contention is made it takes place in Little Rock AR–there was a real Richelieu hotel there) there are limited suspects and a nice feeling of confinement, in a way, like a snowbound mansion full of party guests with no way for anyone to get out or in. Obviously, that’s not the case in this story, but it comes close.
Her style of writing as been said to be in the “had I but known” school begun by Mary Roberts Rinehart. The ‘oh if I’d only realized the man with the fake arm was really a poisoner then I wouldn’t have served so much tea’ or some such silliness. I believe some male authors love to trash the so called genre not because it’s too feminine or cliched or ridiculous, but because it works. And that must annoy the hell out of them. I bet some hard boiled male authors would have died for a publishing career such as Rinehart or Eberhardt had. But I digress, lol. In this particular case, I believe that Ms. Blackmon is utilizing the ‘tricks’ as a humorous device, less than a literary one.
Old Battle Axe, Adelaide herself narrates the tale.
“Because of its staid ways people about town prior to April of this year had been in the facetious habit of alluding to Richelieu as the ‘Old Ladies Home.” That was before the man was discovered, hung by his own suspenders to the chandelier in one of our best suites, with his throat cut from ear to ear.”
Nevertheless, as I have intimidated, there was nothing on this particular morning to indicate the reign of terror into which we were about to be precipitated.”
It seems inevitable now, but, as I sat there purling three and knitting two on the afghan which I intended to present to the orphans’ home of my church, there was nothing to warn me that it would serve instead as a shroud for a woman who was to die horribly at my feet. Nor at that time could any power on earth have convinced me that I should find myself late one terrible night, sans my dress and my false hair, dangling from the eaves of the Richelieu Hotel in the pursuit of a triple slayer.”
The premise established, Adelaide continues on describing the hotel itself, and its inhabitants in most funny terms. The goings on at that residence hotel could be a reality show today! The whodunit is quite good.
I know I really loved the book by my notes in The Crime Club Compendium. Usually I just write, ‘read’ next to books I’d finished. Next to this one, I have ‘really liked!’ LOL.
A fascinating look at Anita Blackmon and her writing career go to: