The Last Will and Testament of Constance CobbleStanton Forbes–1980–used

A mystery within a mystery makes this a standout among many Stanton Forbes’ excellent novels. I first came across Ms. Forbes the summer after my first year at college. I was at loose ends, didn’t have a job, couldn’t figure out what to do, so I started going to the county library where I’d check out at least five mysteries a week. I found I was leaning heavily toward everything Ms. Forbes had on the shelf, which seemed to be plenty. Somehow I came across the info that she wrote under the pen name Tobias Wells, and one or two others. Naturally, I sought those out too. Well, I ran through everything available and moved on. But her name was etched into my brain as someone I’d like to read again so recently when in a used bookstore I came across copies of Welcome My Dear To Belfry House, which I believe was made into a TV movie, and this title, I ate them up. I hadn’t any memory of what I had and had not read, but once started, I knew, I’d not delved into this rather tongue in cheek adventure.

I’m having a rather hard time finding info about DeLoris Stanton Forbes. That’s her real name, I only recently learned. Here’s what Amazon has about her:

“DeLoris Stanton Forbes is the author of 41 published novels and numerous short stories. Her most recent book came out in January 2001, One Man Died on Base was published by Five Star. She lives and works in Sanford, Fla., where as a volunteer she also manages a Habitat for Humanity boutique.”

Well, that info is completely outdated as I just came across another new novel called “The Perils of Marie Louise” Pub date 2003. and last year I had read When the Hearse Goes By pub. date, 2002. I believe she is still alive, but of course can’t be certain. If so, I’d love for her to know just how strong a fan I was and am, sometimes female mystery writers really get the short end of the stick, in terms of contracts and legacy.  I also found this small allotment of info:

“Stanton Forbes, a.k.a. De Loris S. Forbes, full name Deloris Stanton Forbes (10 July 1923-): American author, broadcaster, newspaper editor, and clothing store owner, resident in French West Indies, no known Web page: * 20 mystery/detective novels * 4 mystery/detective novels under pseudonym Forbes Rydell (co-authored with Helen Rydell) * 15 mystery/detective novels under pseudonym Tobias Wells, with series character Knute Severson”

A mystery writer, Constance Cobble, lives in the exotic Caribbean, on St. Martin island. She’s widowed and busy writing her newest novel, about a married couple, Susan and Greg Brady, owners of a boutique on the island. When Susan snorkels across the floating body of  Pauline Grey, the local slut, Susan and Greg quarrel, and Greg disappears.
Pauline dying in the ocean is odd because she was a scuba instructor. The police arrive, claim Pauline was strangled with a gold chain like that Greg was seen buying.

Wait! That’s the novel we are getting involved in, the one Constance is writing. It has abruptly stopped. The novel is told in the first person, real life with Constance is told in the third person, which is disconcerting, because the first person has more gravitas for the reader, than the third and the reader is drawn into the fictional more throughly than the real story about Constance. And that makes the book all the more intriguing.

A floating body is found in a similar manner as in Constance’s book, and even more unsettling, the person who is dead, is the individual Constance based her Pauline character upon. So, real life is echoing fiction! The Last Will goes back and forth from the novel and Constance’s life. The reader is trying to solve two murders, the real and the fictional–or will they turn out to be one and the same, since the real murder has such eerie similarities to the novel? It’s an ingenious plot ploy, and works very very well. The reader honestly doesn’t know who has done what until the very last pages, and then, well, you’ll need to read–both of the books, as it were!

There are many other super titles in Ms. Stanton’s body of work, excuse the pun. Besides the books sited above, one that is very funny and quite a plot tour de force is If Laurel Shot Hardy the World Would  End. At a convention, everyone arrives in pairs of two, each an Oliver Hardy and a Stan Laurel. As you can imagine, when one shoots another, trying to figure out which Hardy or Laurel is responsible for the deadly deed, is no easy task. The dust jacket won a Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1971.


Remember the Best 100 Mysteries of All Time list!



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